Lab software firm Benchling sheds staff


Benchling has seen its business grow at a healthy lick since it launched in 2012 with a mission to improve the efficiency of the biopharma R&D process, but it looks like it may be affected by the squeeze affecting the broader tech sector.

A post on the Blind employee forum on Friday by a verified Benchling worker said the company is laying off 9% of its staff – a report since confirmed by the company, which told Reuters the cull affects 74 employees. According to the original anonymous poster, the layoffs are mainly affecting the marketing team.

San Francisco, California-based Benchling was set up by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) computer scientists Ashu Singhal and Sajith Wickramasekara after concluding that R&D relied far too much on pen and paper note-taking, setting out to create a digital notebook to help life sciences researchers better organise their work.

In the intervening years, the company has expanded the functionality of the cloud-based platform to layer in additional functions like data modelling, sample tracking, workflows, lab automation and molecular biology tools – including tools dedicated to emerging categories like RNA-based compounds.

Its software is now in use by hundreds of thousands of scientists across industry – including companies like Gilead Sciences, Sanofi, Regeneron, and Novozymes – as well as academia.

Competition has also increased in the interim, however, with rivals like Thermo Fisher Scientific, Illumina, Abbott, SciNote, LabLife, and LabWare all now vying for share in a congested market.

Benchling is still privately-held, so there’s no information available on its current finances, although the company was pitching at a massive $4 billion valuation when it filed paperwork for a stock market listing in New York towards the end of 2021.

The company said at the time it was considering either a direct listing or an initial public offering (IPO), and it hired former LinkedIn executive Richard Wong as its chief financial officer to oversee the process – though neither option has thus far come to pass.

It also said it had just seen triple-digit revenue growth and a 70% increase in customer numbers in its latest financial quarter. It has also raised more than $400 million in funding to date, most recently a $200 million Series E and a $100 million Series F in 2021.

The layoffs provide the first sign that Benchling may be feeling the same pressure that has afflicted other tech companies of late, with downsizing gathering momentum in 2022 and 2023 after many years of growth and hiring sprees during the pandemic.

The trend has affected tech giants like Meta, Google parent Alphabet, and Microsoft, as well as medtech players like 3M, Medtronic, Illumina, Cue Vision, and Akili.