Transcriptic snags $8.5M to add capabilities at robot-run lab

Robot-run lab startup Transcriptic has raised $8.5 million in a Series A round to buy more equipment and expand its service offering. The round once again attracted a clutch of big name, Big Data-focused Silicon Valley VC funds, including Data Collective and IA Ventures.

Data Collective led the round, which brings the total raised by Transcriptic since it set up shop in 2012 to a touch over $14 million. Transcriptic used the pre-Series A cash to start designing the software and hardware needed to realize its vision of creating an automated, cloud-operated lab in a building in Menlo Park, CA. And with sales having moved past the $100,000 mark, the startup is now ready to buy more equipment, hire engineers and web developers and prepare to offer drug-screening tests.

Max Hodak

The goal is still the same as when founder Max Hodak, frustrated by the manual nature of lab work, started playing around with robots. "We set out with the goal of giving the life sciences the same structural advantages that web has enjoyed, making it possible for two postdocs with a laptop in a coffee shop to run a drug company without the need for millions of dollars in capital equipment or lab space," Hodak wrote in a blog post.

CROs made such virtual biotechs a reality years ago, but Transcriptic is trying to further automate the process of sourcing and running experiments. Users input their service needs on Transcriptic's web interface, which returns a price based on the time it will take the company's machines and support staff, if they are needed. The instructions are then communicated to the robots that carry out the experiments, generating data that is shared with the client online immediately.

Hodak admits Transcriptic has yet to fulfill the vision that drove him to found the business, but he now has $8.5 million to close the gap between reality and ambition. If Transcriptic or competitor Emerald Therapeutics--which has similar objectives--achieve their goals they could lower the barrier between having an idea and testing it, but the idea will remain the most important and difficult step.  

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