A Google for Biotech: Sci Find Launches a Tool to Connect Researchers and Funders

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

A Google for Biotech: Sci Find Launches a Tool to Connect Researchers and Funders

A former Facebook machine learning analyst is behind Sci Find's new Google-like search engine for bioscience companies. The service launches Monday, aiming to eliminate the often-tedious task researchers must face to find labs that can help them test different products or drugs.

The startup used AI to cull thousands of publicly available research abstracts from the National Institute of Health and is now gathering proprietary documents to build its free search engine. It provides results on researchers' contact information, patents and expertise.

"The scientific part of science is very innovative and groundbreaking," said Sci Find co-founder and genomics expert Guy Rohkin. "But a lot of the communication channels and the way that the information is disseminated is kind of traditional and disjointed."

"What we tried to do on our platform was use AI so that your search queries are more accurate and there's more utility than if you were to go use Google," said Stefani Robnett, former machine learning analyst at Facebook. She founded Sci Find with Rohkin in 2019.

The project was inspired by Rohkin's struggle as an outsourcing provider for a genomics company. His work there required him to sift through pages of research reports in order to find clients who specialized in an extremely obscure niche within life sciences the company was trying to make waves in.

"You have to really hit the exact thing that they want," Rohkin said. "Someone who's doing next-gen sequencing is highly, highly specialized in it, so you can only sell the products and services in that field."

Sci Find allows partners to connect and chat within the platform. That's big for biotech startups, many of which seek to outsource research tasks or large scale trials to more established companies.

Outsourcing in biopharma became increasingly common after the "blockbuster drug" era around the 2008 recession, when big companies began to offload the cost of manufacturing facilities and in-house research and development teams. It created growth among small labs and researchers who operate independently, sometimes with the help of venture capital. When those labs start developing and testing new technologies, they turn to larger companies.

According to a white paper by Provident Healthcare Partners, the majority of small biopharma companies developing drugs rely on outsourcing to develop the active ingredients.

Among its beta testers is California Nanotechnologies, a Cerritos-based lab that provides research and development and access to cryogenic services. Microbiologics, another lab specializing in antimicrobials, is also testing the product. Both hope that the new search engine will connect their lab with new customers.

Sci Find raised $800,000 in a family-and-friends pre-seed funding round in May 2020 and is now raising its seed funding.


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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.