Back in 2012, Max Hodak was carrying out his own scientific research as a student at Duke University. He became frustrated with the process of building experiments and felt it essentially meant pretending to be a robot, without the accuracy of automation. The result of this frustration is Transcriptic, a Menlo-Park-based robotic lab that enables scientists to write life science experiments from the comfort of their own desks.
Up until today, Transcriptic has been open to a limited number of researchers in the US and beyond, including scientists at Harvard, Stanford, UCSF and Ghent University. With the launch of its new APIs however, scientists across the board can now access its science-as-a-service technology via a cloud-based interface.
Named Transcriptic Platform, it’s a programmable system that enables researchers to execute experiments remotely while maintaining full design control. Although the platform promotes automation, Transcriptic also offers support from and collaboration with a team of scientists and engineers.
CEO Hodak believes that Transcriptic Platform will make experimentation more time and cost-effective: “[The] mission is to provide the infrastructure necessary to lower costs, improve reproducibility, and allow researchers to do the projects that right now they can only wish they could run”.
Indeed the company has been vocal about its cost-saving endeavors and has an in-house hardware team for constructing equipment. Hodak told The Verge last year about a freezer they constructed in-house for $8,000. The cost on the market would have been $400,000.
Behind these practical benefits are some idealistic goals: the Transcriptic team wants to liberate scientists from the burden of carrying out experiments. Rather than sitting in the lab or using slow Contract Research Organizations (CROs), they can outsource their ideas and concentrate on the more creative aspects of their work. As Blake Byers, Transcriptic investor and Google Ventures partner explains: “Some of the smartest people I know spend a majority of their time on mundane tasks like manually moving around small volumes of liquid, labeling samples, culturing cells, etc. This inefficient approach is a real speed bump to innovation,”
It feels like the start of a real science-as-a-service movement. Emerald Cloud Lab launched recently and is operating in a similar market, while Science Exchange enables scientists to order experiments from partner labs.