A good blueprint is the backbone for all successful design implementations, whether a 40-story building or legal proceedings for homicide cases. Science is no different — and no, I’m not talking about DNA, perhaps the most famous blueprint of all.
I’m talking about blueprints for doing science.
The amount of data we are amassing today is mind-boggling. With new technologies and improved instrumentation, we can measure biological parameters like never before. And, with many operating under the tenant “more data is better data,” scientists are collecting data at a frenetic pace without a solid experimental design to direct them. They find themselves buried under mountains of noise, struggling to find what actually matters.
The problem is profound: 80% of data scientists’ time is spent not analyzing data, but instead on data cleanup. Hundreds of person-hours are wasted. The problem is only compounded by lack of standardization, leading to data fragmentation and lack of reproducibility which is one of the biggest issues facing scientific research today.
It’s a critical problem reaching the point of boiling over. And it’s a critical problem that Timothy Gardner, CEO of Riffyn, decided to do something about. In 2014, Gardner founded Riffyn, a computer-aided design and advanced data analytics company based on the idea of re-thinking the scientific experiment.
An idea catching fire
Five years later, Gardner’s idea is catching on in a big way with investors and global R&D leaders. Riffyn recently closed a $15 million Series B led by M Ventures (the corporate venture capital arm of Merck KGaA) with participation by Waters Corporation — the former is a name-brand investment firm with over 70 portfolio companies including the likes of DNA Script and Mosa Meat, the latter is a global leader in specialty measurement and advanced analytical science technologies.
“[Riffyn] is becoming a stand-out leader in scientific data analytics and is a compelling example of how digital transformation is creating the lab of the future,” said Joey Mason, head of M Ventures Life Sciences Fund in a recent press release.
But the company is turning more than just investors’ heads. BASF Corporation has partnered with Riffyn to advance the company’s development of bio-based solutions and fermentation processes through integration of its white biotechnology research tools and data systems with the Riffyn SDE. As it has done for all of its customers, the Riffyn SDE will help BASF scientists to focus on the important parts of their work: gaining real value from data they produce.
“Digitalization in R&D includes building up our capabilities and IT infrastructure for data science, knowledge management and scientific modeling as well as the application of digital tools,” said Richard Trethewey, Vice President, Digitalization in R&D, Biosciences & Knowledge at BASF in a press release. “Teaming up with Riffyn will get us closer to an integrated data landscape that will boost the efficiency of our research by reducing the number of experiments and allowing faster and better decision making.”
BASF isn’t the only industry giant jumping on board. Novozymes, a global leader in enzymes, recently committed to a multi-year partnership that secures its use of Riffyn as a cornerstone of its long-term R&D strategy. Novozymes has had their eye on Riffyn since 2016, when they piloted the company as one of the pillars of their Digital Transformation Strategy. And Riffyn didn’t disappoint — integrating seamlessly with Novozymes’ broader scientific infrastructure, they have consistently delivered improvements in process and data analytics. The new, multi-year partnership will build on the success Riffyn and Novozymes have already experienced together.
“Novozymes’ pioneering digitalization efforts have defined a reference architecture for globally integrated data analytics in biotech R&D,” said Gardner in a June 5 press release. “We are delighted to enter this long-term partnership with Novozymes and serve as a pillar of that architecture.”
On top of all of this, Riffyn already serves eight of the top 15 global biopharmaceutical, biotech, and food tech firms. For a company that’s only five years old, Riffyn has been wildly successful, attracting giants in the investment, biopharmaceutical, and biotech spaces.
Why? What, exactly, does Riffyn offer?
Scientific blueprints: the secret sauce
Riffyn’s cloud-based software platform, a new category of software called a Scientific Development Environment, is inspired by a simple idea — that scientists need blueprints to design and analyze their experiments, just as architects need blueprints to design buildings.
“The experiment, which of course is the fundamental unit of science, is often misunderstood and misapplied,” says Gardner. “Experiments are much more than a means to find answers to a particular scientific question. They are a kind of instrument for gathering high-quality, reproducible data. Just like any instrument, the experiment needs a blueprint that dictates how it is designed and the accuracy of data it generates. When thought about this way, each experiment becomes a contribution to an aggregate data set that is more trustworthy, easier to analyze and more likely to reveal meaningful discoveries.” It also accelerates the design-build-test product development cycle by allowing researchers to mine the aggregated data with AI and machine learning to find deeply buried patterns and relationships.
Such deep data mining is normally impossible in an R&D environment due to data heterogeneity and constantly changing R&D processes. Things change so fast that data systems are often out-of-date by the time they are finished being programmed. Riffyn changes all that: its patented computer-aided design technology allows scientists to create blueprints for their rapidly evolving R&D processes, while automatically integrating data sets across traditional silos for real-time analysis.
These blueprints solve multiple problems at once: they improve the transparency and shareability of scientific methodologies, they automate data contextualization and aggregation, and they allow rapid adaptation of the data system to evolving R&D procedures. They are Riffyn’s “special sauce,” says Gardner.
It seems to be a special sauce that everyone — Novozymes included — wants to get their hands on. It’s no wonder, given that Riffyn’s customers are experiencing 30% reduction in effort required to execute scientific workflows, real-time access to multi-experiment datasets, and global integration of data to facilitate collaboration and machine learning.
Upping the game with security compliance
But to be successful, companies like BASF and Novozymes need more than just improved R&D processes — which is why Gardner is laser-focused on delivering from R&D all of the way through manufacturing. Meeting that goal just became a whole lot easier: Riffyn recently achieved GxP validation, 21 CFR 11 compliance, and ISO 27001 certification, meaning they meet international and FDA standards for security compliance.
“Riffyn is now best-in-class security and compliant with FDA good manufacturing and good laboratory practice regulations, which is positive for our future in biopharmaceuticals,” says Gardner. “This achievement allows us to enter the regulated space and deliver on that vision of R&D to manufacturing for pharmaceuticals.”
In only five years, Riffyn has made considerable contributions to the field, marrying biology and AI to completely change the way data integration and analysis is done. With new partnerships with BASF and Novozymes, international security compliance standards, and the recent addition of John Conway (former head of Data Sciences and AI at AstraZeneca) to the team as CCO, the company is poised to achieve even more. I can’t wait to see what they’ve accomplished by their sixth birthday.
Riffyn CEO Tim Gardner will be speaking at SynBioBeta 2019 October 1-3 in San Francisco. Join us for the latest news and insights from the thought leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors driving the field.
This article was updated on July 22, 2019, to include information about Riffyn’s partnership with BASF, international and FDA security standards compliance, and the addition of John Conway to the Riffyn team.0