Robots For Biologists’ Platform Providing Automation in Experiments, Cutting Work Done by Hand

James Dargan

Less of The Mundane

Although laboratory technicians and scientists do some amazing and technically difficult work, there are times when some of the duties — important in the grand scheme of things and essential to scientific breakthroughs — can become rather mundane. Such examples of these can be seen in boring benchwork, like pipetting.

Automation in this area, at least partly, has been around since the latter half of the 19th century when scientists started building themselves laboratory devices. After World War Two, however, things really started to ramp up when companies began designing, then building, automated equipment with a greater level of complexity and quality, though still a major problem was the high running cost of such equipment.

In the early 1980s, and with the rise in technology, the first fully automated laboratory was opened by Dr. Masahide Sasaki. Later still, in 1993, Dr. Rod Markin at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, created one of the world’s first clinical automated laboratory management systems.

Things have moved on a lot since then. Now, companies like Opentrons Labworks — a Long Island City, NY-based startup that manufactures robots for biologists — are solving many of those laboratory automation problems utilizing some wonderful technological innovations.

Opentrons Labworks

Founded in 2014 by Chiu Chau, Nicholas Wagner and Will Canine, Opentrons Labworks’ product range includes Lab Robots for work in genomics, proteomics, cell-based assays, biochemical assays, and drug discovery; Workstations for nucleic acid extraction; the Thermocycler Module, a fully automated on-deck thermocycler with programmable lid and block temperatures, and other automated laboratory equipment that can be employed for several applications like sample preparation, PCR, Nucleic Acid Extraction + Purification, NGS Library Prep etc.

“Biology opens the door to solve many of humanity’s grand challenges. For far too long, scientists and clinicians have been locked in by slow, expensive, and overly complex lab solutions that underpin their work. Opentrons’ platform provides the key to unlock their potential. We are enabling more R&D, more testing, more biology to unleash innovation in life sciences and healthcare.”

 — Jon Brennan-Badal, CEO of Opentrons Labworks

An additional service is that biopharmaceutical labs can access the Opentrons biofoundry to carry out genome-scale cell engineering processes.

So far, the startup has raised a total of $240 million in funding over eight rounds. Opentrons Labworks’ latest funding, a $200-million Series C round led by SoftBank Vision Fund, was raised in September of this year, sending its valuation, according to some sources, to an estimated $1.8 billion, and allows for major investment in the Opentrons’ platform. In particular, the investment will support the development of new robotic tools, an expanded biofoundry, new diagnostic tests, and additional diagnostic labs.

Up until this year, Co-Founder Chiu Chau had been the CEO and CTO at Opentrons Labworks, having worked in biotech for over two decades before building the first OpenTrons robot.

Opentrons Labworks’ CPO is Will Canine, another Co-Founder still active within the startup.

While though not one of the original co-founders, Jonathan Brennan-Badal has been the startup’s CEO since 2016.

Opentrons Labworks, then, is working tirelessly to create better, cheaper solutions for the life sciences, which, in turn, will make the world a much healthier place.

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