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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