Microsoft has a new project for the biotech industry. It’s a platform, called Station B, for creating new biological formulations using data, cloud computing and robots.
Synthetic biology has exploded in the past decade, producing developments like CRISPR gene editing and personalized cancer therapies. It has also shown promising applications in fields like agriculture, where microbes may one day replace fertilizers, as well as the textile, construction and chemical industries.
Finding the perfect biological tool for a given problem requires lots of trial and error. Microsoft hopes that Station B will help researchers scale their efforts to design, build and test more products faster.
Microsoft Research’s outpost in Cambridge, U.K. has already been working in this field for a decade. The biological computing group there is led by Andrew Phillips.
Station B aligns with Microsoft’s broader approach to healthcare, which has favored creating platforms over products. Last month, the company unveiled a platform for creating health-related bots as well as an Azure API for health record sharing.
To create Station B, Microsoft said it is working with three partners:
- Synthace, which makes software for labs, will help with biological experiments powered by robots.
- Princeton University is first academic partner and will be studying the formation of biofilms.
- Oxford Biomedica, a cell and gene therapy company, will use Station B’s modeling and machine learning capabilities to improve how therapies are produced and lower costs.
Microsoft didn’t disclose the financial terms of the partnerships. The name Station B harkens to Station Q, Microsoft Research’s quantum computing lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara.