Culture riding virtual R&D wave, latest funding round enables development of cloud bioreactors

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Just_Super
© GettyImages/Just_Super

Related tags cloud lab platform cloud Venture capital

Culture Biosciences, a company enabling biotech firms to develop and scale manufacturing processes in the cloud, recently announced an $80m Series B round, taking the funds it has raised to date to $100m+.

The financing effort was led by Northpond Ventures. Synthesis Capital also participated in the round with existing investors, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, The Production Board, Craft Ventures, E14 Fund, Box Group, Verily Life Sciences, and Section 32, also contributing.

Matt Ball, CTO, Culture Biosciences, told BioPharma-Reporter the company, whose facility is located in South San Francisco, can generate high fidelity bioprocessing data using a variety of online and offline sensing systems, supported by its custom software stack for complex analysis and data visualization. 

“Our systems are built on a secure, cloud-based, proprietary data management platform that makes it easy for our customers to collaborate internally and with the team at Culture.”

The company works with customers to support complex processes in a variety of host organisms.

From alternative proteins to vaccines to plastics, synthetic biology products are on the rise and biomanufacturing is booming, said the company. A hurdle, though, says the innovator, is a significant lack of manufacturing capacity worldwide to support this new wave of bioproducts.

And this is where Culture comes in. It is looking to plug this major gap in large-scale capacity, and thus get behind companies looking to scale their processes up to manufacturing.

It is starting with pilot-scale bioreactors. Culture’s latest funding round will be used to build and scale 5L and 250L cloud bioreactors, supporting customer demand for larger quantities of material to use for testing and regulatory approval.

Out of all potential new product offerings, biopharma and synthetic biology companies indicated that pilot scale bioreactors would be the most beneficial to their work, according to a survey Culture conducted last year.

The 5L and 250L reactors will be available for customers to utilize and control via the company’s Cloud Console. “The first 5L reactors will be available for ‘beta’ customers in mid-2022 and 250L reactors will come online after that; customers can conduct testing and characterization at these scales.”

Many customers are already signing up to use the larger tanks when they become available, he said.

“We have worked with customers around the country. We plan to open new facilities in the coming years.,”​ added Ball.

Virtual R&D trend

Culture is part of a wave of companies trying that are leveraging the internet to serve pharmaceutical R&D. And the market itself is rife with venture capital (VC) interest.

Emerald Cloud Lab (ECL) is another San Francisco based company operating a commercial cloud lab platform. It has raised over $90m in VC capital. 

Scientific advancements are bogged down because scientists and researchers spend more time setting up and running experiments than they spend doing the actual science part of their job, argues​ that innovator.

ECL’s software architecture is the result of $100m investment in technical development over 10 years.

Early users of the its platform, said ECL, have reported 300% to 700% improved productivity - that means faster pharma development at a fraction of the cost, which is important especially for fast-growing companies, it maintains.

For a monthly fee that costs less than a single piece of lab gear, ECL said it gives scientists around the world access to 190 different kinds high-throughput scientific instruments, over 500 pieces of lab equipment overall. Scientists, it continued, can run almost any research tests on their laptops from a single company computer dashboard.

Researchers send in their samples and upload their research parameters to the cloud. Then ECL uses automation to run the experiments and return the findings. Multiple experiments can be run at once, and the scientists never even have to set foot in the lab, it explained.

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