Merck KGaA backs equipment-sharing platform, connected-lab firm through startup incubator

Merck kgaa

Merck KGaA has added a fresh batch of startups to its digital-focused incubator program. The latest wave of entrants skews toward laboratory digitization, with companies focused on automating data transfers and facilitating equipment sharing among the recipients of cash and support.

In a break from its prior practices, Merck KGaA has accepted four companies into the incubator in its home city of Darmstadt, Germany, plus the typical intake of three startups into the Nairobi, Kenya, offshoot of the program. The four entrants into the Darmstadt incubator are the first to benefit from the recently revised terms of the program, which now allow Merck KGaA to provide up to €50,000 ($56,000) in seed funding and a month in Silicon Valley to participants.

Merck KGaA claims the larger carrot offered for the third intake attracted 50% more applications than in the past. Among the applicants were AptaCam, Clustermarket, Cubuslab and Fedorov, the firms accepted into the program by Merck KGaA. The successful applicants are more focused on life science research than previous waves of entrants.

Clustermarket is looking to apply the sharing economy model epitomized by Airbnb to life science research, specifically by providing a platform through which people can rent equipment, space and expertise. The idea is to lower the cost of gaining access to equipment and other assets, while also giving the owners of such resources a chance to profit from them during downtime.

Cubuslab is also focused on laboratories. The company offers hardware and software to connect lab equipment with digital interfaces to a central platform, a model it thinks makes it easier to collect, organize and store data.

The third research-focused entrant, AptaCam, is working on a platform through which researchers can discuss their use of oligonucleotides. AptaCam hopes such discussions will eliminate duplicated projects, and give it a community of potential users of its e-commerce platform.

Fedorov, a developer of sensor-enabled food and drug packaging, is the only one of the entrants to operate outside of the field of laboratory research.

Merck KGaA also accepted three companies into its Nairobi program. The startups are working on apps that allow patients to see which pharmacies stock a drug, figure out what type of doctor they need and check whether a medicine is counterfeit.