california biotech

Digital Transformation in Life Science and Biotech R&D: A Look into the SoCal Bio Scene

By eLabNext 4 min read 16 Mar 2023

The biotech industry has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with digitalisation emerging as a critical tool for streamlining the R&D process. Traditional manual methods of tracking, managing, and analysing data and information are becoming obsolete, and laboratories must adapt to compete in today’s fast-paced and competitive environment. 

The blog below gives an overview of the full scope of digitalisation in the biotech industry, its advantages, and how life science hubs on the West Coast, particularly Southern California, are leading the charge.

The Current Era of Digitization in Biotech R&D

Digital technology has permeated all aspects of the biotech pipeline, from uncovering foundational insights during R&D to optimising manufacturing and logistical operations. With the current challenges facing companies in the space – a competitive marketplace, complex regulatory requirements, and high research costs – digitalisation is no longer a “nice have.” It’s necessary for survival and continued innovation.

So, what exactly does digitalisation look like for modern-day biotech companies? 

No matter your company’s size, the chatter about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has likely piqued your interest. News about the work of AlphaFold and Meta AI has erupted into the mainstream, as it provided a promising solution to protein folding, which opens up a multitude of R&D avenues for synthetic biology and biopharma companies. 

Other biotech digital solutions emerged from biology’s ability to generate “big data” through next-generation sequencing (NGS) and other technologies. To manage, analyse, and visualise the sheer volume of NGS data, computational approaches for cleaning raw sequencing data, aligning reads to a reference genome, detecting and calling variants, and performing downstream analyses such as functional annotation, pathway analysis, and statistical testing became a necessity. 

Furthermore, AI- and ML-driven solutions have recently been deployed to identify patterns and make predictions from the vast public data available. Until recently, these bioinformatics tools and pipelines were only accessible to those with computational skills. However, that tide has shifted recently, and these sophisticated analyses are being democratised with easy-to-use interfaces, a simple user experience, and no coding experience required. 

Initiatives like CELLxGENE, published as an open-source software tool so biologists can easily access and analyse their single-cell RNA sequencing data, are a perfect example. Companies, such as Form Bio, have taken this to the next level, launching a commercial platform that puts the power of bioinformatics workflows in the hands of wet lab biologists and cell and gene therapy developers. 

Benefits of Digital Transformation in Life Science and Biotech Research

The examples above have one clear, direct benefit of the utmost importance for biotech R&D: Unprecedented insight that’s simply unavailable if digital tools were not in use. 

But these tools offer additional benefits too. Many computational platforms provide increased efficiency, improved collaboration and communication, data security, and intellectual property protection through their use in the digital space.

Electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) are another prototypical example. Their ability to track experiments, record results, and manage data in a centralised platform is a significant advantage for biotech R&D personnel: They increase data accuracy and integrity while saving time and reducing errors. Repetitive task automation also frees up valuable time for scientists to focus on higher-level tasks, such as strategic planning and business development.

Digitisation Doesn’t Discriminate: How Digital is Changing the Biotech Startup Scene

The benefits of digitisation are not limited to global corporations. They can be enjoyed by those in startup mode too. And with optimised processes, enhanced collaboration, improved data integrity and security, and powerful AI-driven insights, there’s an added benefit: Interest from potential investors. 

California has long had a thriving biotech ecosystem, attracting top talent, future-focused investors, and hungry startups. The San Francisco Bay Area, particularly South San Francisco, has emerged as a central biotech hub, with a high concentration of companies focused on genomics, personalised medicine, and drug discovery. San Diego is also a booming biotech nucleus, concentrating on biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, and diagnostics. The majority of the life science industry in California is focused on R&D, making the environment robust and nimble, and focused on the latest technology for driving innovation. 

Los Angeles has seen significant growth in the biotech industry, particularly in biotechnology, digital health, and medical technology. LA County has driven the sector’s growth to over 195,000 jobs, nearly 3,000 life science businesses, and $44.2 billion in economic activity through heavy investment in workforce development, venture capital firms, and innovation hubs.

HeroHouse: Nurturing Startups at the Intersection of AI and Biotech

Hero House, founded by SmartGateVC, is one such hub focusing on investing at the intersection of AI, healthcare, and biotech. Located in Glendale, California, the space connects science, technology, entrepreneurship, and capital and provides various services that nurture startups using AI to solve complex biological problems.

The Hero House hubs’ importance to biotech innovation is underscored by the recent addition of eLabNext, a digital lab platform for life science R&D laboratories, which opened a new office. As a division of Eppendorf, eLabNext will be able to leverage the city’s intense biotech scene and emerging technologies to propel further digitalisation of LA’s up-and-coming industry mavericks. 


The digital transformation of the biotech industry has revolutionised the industry, with digitalisation being a critical tool for streamlining R&D. The many benefits of “going digital” have helped further the growth of life science hubs on the West Coast, particularly in emerging areas like Los Angeles. As we move forward, it’s clear that digitisation will continue to be a driving force in biotech research.

To learn more about Hero House, eLabNext, and the growth of biotech digital solutions, contact us here.

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