Toronto-based BenchSci, an AI biomedical startup, has raised approximately $6.7 million CAD in financing, bringing its total funding to $27 million CAD ($20 million USD).

“Given the amount of data consumed and generated in drug discovery, AI can play a huge role in improving research productivity.”

The round was led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund. BenchSci said this round is an extension of its Series A round, the first portion of which ($10 million) was closed in May 2018 with participation from Gradient. BenchSci, which has created a search engine to help researchers find antibody usage data, said it will use the new investment to expand its office and team to better serve pharmaceutical companies looking to use its biomedical technology.

“Last May, BenchSci was proud to become Gradient Ventures’ first investment outside of the US,” said Liran Belenzon, CEO of BenchSci. “At the time, we had just started selling our technology to pharmaceutical companies. Since then, we’ve seen incredible demand, with the majority of top 10 pharmaceutical companies now licensing BenchSci for their scientists to bring drugs to patients faster. Recognizing this demand, we’re pleased to say that Gradient Ventures has provided further resources to meet it.”

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BenchSci’s technology aims to provide a solution to failed scientific experiments that can delay drug discovery projects by weeks to months, often due to the selection of incorrect antibodies. The startup’s flagship product is its AI-powered antibody selection platform, which uses machine learning to help researchers find reliable antibodies based on data from scientific papers.

The platform uses biologist-trained machine learning models to allow scientists to select the most suitable antibodies for experiments 24 times faster than current methods, to address the 50 percent of research antibodies that don’t work in experiments. It also claims this can reduce the cost of consumables and increases the impact of scientific research for more than 26,000 users at more than 2,000 academic institutions.

“BenchSci is a phenomenal example of the positive impact that AI can have on life science and healthcare.”

Founded in 2016 by a team of PhD biologists in Toronto, BenchSci raised a $250,000 pre-Seed, followed by a Seed round of approximately $2.5 million. It has also recently received $7.3 million in venture debt, which along with Gradient’s additional investment brings BenchSci’s total money raised to $27 million.

“BenchSci is a phenomenal example of the positive impact that AI can have on life science and healthcare,” stated Darian Shirazi, general partner at Gradient Ventures. “Our expanded investment recognizes the success that BenchSci has had not only developing its novel technology, but also growing adoption in both academia and industry.

“Given the amount of data consumed and generated in drug discovery, AI can play a huge role in improving research productivity. We believe BenchSci is poised to lead the industry in using AI to empower bench scientists to run more successful experiments,” he said.

With the new investment, BenchSci has grown its home office in Toronto and has recruited an international group of salespeople. It is currently looking to onboard engineers specializing in big data, machine learning, and user interface technologies. In addition to its support from Gradient Ventures, BenchSci’s Series A was led by iNovia Capital with the participation of existing investors Real Ventures, Golden Ventures, and Afore Capital.

“With our additional funding, we aim to tackle other important problems in life science with more advanced technology, and be a magnet in Toronto for passionate people who believe in our mission and want to make a positive impact through their work,” Belenzon said.

Image courtesy BenchSci