With Google’s backing, UofT startup BenchSci uses AI to create ‘super scientists’

In less than three years, biomedical firm BenchSci has gone from four people sitting around a table to a 50-strong operation that’s backed by Google and counts some of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies among its clients.

Determined to use cutting-edge technology to improve success rates, Leung, Chen and Wianda got involved with U of T’s network of accelerators, working with the Entrepreneurship Hatchery and the Health Innovation Hub (H2i) to get BenchSci off the ground.

In 2016, the startup was urged to apply to the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) by Liran Belenzon, then an MBA candidate at the Rotman School of Management who was working a summer job recruiting startups for the lab. CDL, which is affiliated with Rotman, is among the world’s leading seed-stage accelerators for companies in technology and the sciences.

Belenzon, who had prior experience as an entrepreneur in his native Israel, later took Rotman’s CDL course, which gives business students hands-on experience in building early-stage tech companies. That gave him the opportunity to work directly with BenchSci. He eventually joined the company full-time as CEO.

With Belenzon’s arrival, the trio of scientists behind BenchSci – Leung, Chen and Wianda – could now count on an experienced entrepreneurial mind to helm the business.

The company set about raising money, securing $250,000 in pre-seed funding in 2016 before landing investments from the likes of Google’s Gradient Ventures and Toronto-based Inovia Capital.

Many of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies now use BenchSci’s customizable platform, which uses machine learning algorithms to collect antibody data while taking into account the context of specific experiments.

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