Toronto startup 1DegreeBio helps scientists source antibodies online

Need to source antibodies for scientific research? There’s now a social network for that. “Scientists have traditionally been logo 1DegreeBioperceived as less social animals,” says Alex Hodgson, Managing Director at 1DegreeBio. “However, we saw a huge opportunity to build an ecosystem where scientists could share data and resources online.”

According to Hodgson, over $2 billion dollars was spent on antibodies last year alone. And over 50% of those antibodies did not work as specified by the antibody manufacturers. “The current process to source antibodies is flawed, and there is a lot of waste,” says Hodgson.

1DegreeBio is the first independent online resource aimed at building a comprehensive listing of all academic and commercially available antibodies.

Typically, researchers get recommendations on antibodies from colleagues in their immediate network. Or, they do a very tedious search via search engines, random websites and publications to see which suppliers might be the best. “Scientists are spending on average 2-4 hours sourcing antibodies each time they need to find a new one,” says Hodgson.

To fill a very big void in the scientific community, 1DegreeBio launched in July 2010. The Toronto-based startup spent a year working with labs to test their hypothesis that there was a need for their online service. The test has certainly paid off and 1DegreeBio is now the largest antibody database worldwide, with roughly 38,000 users. Hodgson says “we can’t cure cancer, but we can facilitate collaboration.”

The site’s search engine not only lists results, including product information, quality validation data and manuals, but also user reviews and community ratings.

“Five years ago, this wouldn’t have worked. But today, the mass number of grad students who’ve grown up with Facebook are a driving force for change,” says Hodgson.

On its one-year anniversary, 1DegreeBio received funding from Digital Science, a UK firm which is a branch of the biggest journal in science. Up until that investment, the company was completely self-funded.

According to Hodgson, “meeting Digital Science was like meeting Mr. Right. They are trying to build an ecosystem of tools that serve the entire scientific community online. They liked the fact that our tool is open access and that we don’t sell advertising – we just generate revenue based on the data derived from the scientists searching on our network. A lot of VCs wouldn’t touch us because we were such a niche community and were non-consumer focused.”

1DegreeBio’s goals include:

  • Providing a platform for researchers to connect with high quality antibody products and their suppliers;
  • Establishing a vehicle for academic labs to share their in-house developed reagents with the greater scientific community;
  • Creating a mechanism to establish much-needed quality standards within the antibody industry;
  • Building the first comprehensive listing of commercial and academic providers and products within this market.

The company plans to move into more products, beyond antibodies, early in the new year.