Microsoft's VC arm leads $21M investment in Artificial's lab automation platform

coronavirus test tubes
The cloud-based aLab Suite coordinates manual and automated tasks, tracks scientific results and manages equipment costs and availability for life sciences labs. (Getty/RossHelen)

This is no fake-out—Artificial, which is developing a software platform to coordinate and automate the daily tasks of biopharma labs, has closed its series A funding round with a total of $21.5 million.

The round was led by M12, the corporate venture capital subsidiary of Microsoft that largely focuses on funding new artificial intelligence applications, with other health-related portfolio companies including Innovaccer, Andor Health and 1910 Genetics.

The startup's other financial backers include Playground Global and AME Cloud Ventures. In conjunction with the funding, M12’s Kouki Harasaki and Playground’s Peter Barrett will join Artificial’s board of directors.

“Artificial’s aLab Suite is especially exciting to us because it is uniquely positioned to automate the masses: It’s accessible, low code, easy to use, highly configurable and interoperable with common lab hardware and software,” Harasaki said in a statement.

RELATED: Microsoft ramps up focus on healthcare AI with $19.7B Nuance acquisition

The aLab Suite provides a centralized location for labs to manage all of their daily tasks. Not only does the platform track the costs and availability of a lab’s materials and storage space and keep a unified record of all experimental inputs and results, but it also schedules and manages the entire workflow of both automated and manual tasks.

Artificial’s software also allows researchers, engineers and lab operators to access the platform from any connected device and creates “digital twins” of each lab’s unique setup and workflow. The aLab Assistant can then guide each user step by step through their assigned tasks on their own computer or tablet.

The startup will use the new capital to add to its staff, further develop its aLab Suite and expand its network of life science partnerships, all in the name of getting the platform into as many labs as possible to advance scientific breakthroughs.

RELATED: Beckman Coulter targets midsized diagnostic labs with automated sample prep hardware launch

“At Artificial, we believe that the scientific process is as much an art as it is science so any lab automation platform must keep the human in the loop,” said David Fuller, Artificial’s co-founder and CEO.

 “Rather than adding another software tool to their tech stack, we want to orchestrate a lab’s software, hardware and people so they can seamlessly capture their scientific intent and map it to automated and augmented execution.”

So far, Artificial’s partners include Thermo Fisher Scientific and Beam Therapeutics. With Thermo Fisher, for example, Artificial inked a collaboration deal in March to integrate the aLab Suite into the company's existing workflow management software to streamline and scale up production of COVID-19 diagnostics.