Up-and-Coming Automation Company Berkeley Lights Raises $95 Million
By Mark Terry
Emeryville, Calif.-based Berkeley Lights closed on a $95 million financing round. It was led by Nikon and backed by existing investors Sequoia Capital, Walden-Riverwood Ventures, Black Diamond Ventures, and Paxion Capital. New investors included Cota Capital, KTB Network, Atinum Investment, Shangbay Capital, AJS BioTree Healthcare Fund, and Varian.
Berkeley Lights calls itself a digital cell biology company. It develops and markets tech platforms for what it calls “the intersection of biology, technology and information.” Its technology automates the manipulation, analysis and selection of individuals cells.
The funds will be used to advance its cell therapy development and manufacturing, including CAR-T and endogenous T-cells.
“This investment from new and past investors is a testament to the significant strides that BLI has already made in transforming the future of drug discovery and development with our digital cell biology platform,” said Eric Hobbs, Berkeley Lights’ chief executive officer, in a statement. “In the past 12 months, we have more than doubled the adoption rate of our Beacon platform; and we’ve only just begun. As we continue to strengthen our technology’s global presence, we will be focusing on adding platform capabilities that will, ultimately, make personalized cell therapeutics accessible to all.”
The company’s Beacon platform has been adopted by more than “half of the top 25 global pharma companies.” The Beacon platform uses a closed nanofluidic environment and a structured-light optical engine with fully automated assays to sort and analyze cells, including real-time IgG secretion, growth rate, surface markets, multiplex assays and others.
In June, Berkeley Lights inked a collaboration deal with ChemPartner to accelerate ChemPartner’s monoclonal antibody discovery workflow using the Beacon Optofluidic platform. In May, the company announced a program with Taipei-based TPG Biologics to use the Beacon platform to accelerate TPG’s cell line development workflow, including identifying top producing clones and analyzing the stability of the clones over multiple generations.
“TPG has already developed a streamlined cell line generation platform and generated dozens of production clones for our customers,” stated Pei-Jiun Chen, chairman and president at TPG. “We are always working to integrate innovative technologies to optimize our workflow. We chose to work with Berkeley Lights because the Beacon platform cell line development program has the potential to generate high yield cell lines more efficiently for us with additional insights into clone stability and enhanced clonality.”
In March, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Berkeley Lights launched Optera Therapeutics, a biopharma company developing cell therapies with scalable manufacturing solutions for cancer. Optera will develop cancer cell therapies identified at MD Anderson and use Berkeley Lights’ advanced cell therapy manufacturing systems to make them more accessible.
“Our hope is that—by combining our cell therapy research expertise with advanced automation capabilities—we will enhance our ability to deliver these treatments to every patient who needs them,” stated Patrick Hwu, division head of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson.