(This article was first published in 2017 and has been updated in July 2022)
Online marketplaces are websites with “many-to-many” business logic. They can host multiple suppliers trading with multiple buyers via different e-commerce tools available as a part of website functionality.
Why are online marketplaces great?
Online marketplaces can provide substantial added value to their users. For example, buyers can quickly compare and select better offerings without the need to research multiple websites and surf online for price comparisons or product specifications. Additionally, marketplaces bring more transparency, trust, and standardization to the whole process of sourcing.
On the other hand, suppliers benefit in that they can get a more targeted audience streamlined directly to their product or service pages. In fact, a well-represented company profile with a specifications-rich catalog can be a powerful lead magnet for potential customers.
Image credit: Andrey Suslov iStock
Both buyers and suppliers benefit a lot if a marketplace leads a role in the operational activities, such as bidding, quoting, invoicing, consulting, basic customer support, etc.
Normally, marketplaces include catalog search capabilities, options to quote and place orders online, as well as payment options to finalize a purchase. Sometimes, marketplaces support different rating or verification algorithms to make sure the website users — either suppliers or buyers — are reliable business partners to deal with.
Some modern marketplaces include also more sophisticated components, like community-building capabilities, artificial intelligence-based recommender systems, or advanced integration APIs to connect with other types of software, like spend-management, etc.
Marketplaces for the pharmaceutical and biotech professionals
The pharmaceutical and biotech B2B sector tends to lag behind some other more traditional consumer industries in terms of adopting advanced e-commerce workflows and struggles with an antiquated supply chain
However, nowadays e-commerce is a growing trend in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and there is a number of notable marketplaces to explore in various product and service categories.
(Read "How E-commerce Reshapes Pharmaceutical R&D Market" for a more detailed review of how e-commerce and online marketplaces are changing traditional sourcing paradigm in life sciences industry)
It is important to realize that the generally more complex nature of scientific products, compared to "traditional" everyday products, imposes the need for more advanced tools and a more sophisticated user experience at life science marketplaces. Scientists need more information than is readily available on product packaging; nomenclature often varies from manufacturer to manufacturer making it difficult to compare "apples to apples"; and the stakes are high when choosing wrong. Using a non-optimal product in an experiment can lead to flawed data, poor, or non-reproducible results.
Let’s review some of the marketplaces in pharma and biotech, and how they deal with "nuances" of the industry: I have roughly clustered them by specialization (please, do feel free to suggest more marketplaces if I missed something):
- Various Research Products (consumables, reagents, research materials)
- Product Search & Comparison Engines
- R&D Outsourcing Services
- R&D Crowdsourcing (open innovation challenges)
- Hiring Talent
- Biospecimens and health data
- Fine Chemicals (building blocks, screening compounds, intermediates)
Various Research Products (consumables, reagents, research materials)
Founded in 2015, biotechnological online shopping platform Zageno is a sophisticated e-commerce solution for the life science professionals, which claims to save a pure week of scientist’s time every year. Zageno’s database contains more than 20 million product items from over 3500 suppliers and its smooth workflows are based on modern technologies like artificial intelligence (AI)-directed product information aggregation. Collecting data from millions of scientific publications, Zageno developed a unique “Zageno Scientific Score” metric to compare research materials and choose the best solution for the study. On the platform, you can find a great variety of supplies — from lab consumables and equipment to antibodies, cell cultures, molecules and kits.
It offers an improved shopping experience with end-to-end customer care and taking responsibility for all necessary steps – from a convenient product approval mechanism for lab heads and administrators to invoicing, payment and order delivery. For those who want to trim spendings on research materials, Zageno created a spending analytics dashboard that helps researchers reach high levels of cost-efficiency.
The company raised a total of $88M in a series of venture capital rounds. Over 6 years of work the company expanded its network globally, with a primary focus on the US, UK and Germany.
California-based company Quartzy is not only a marketplace but also a lab inventory management system. Quartzy software allows customers to transfer previous inventory data directly to the system, keep track of all research materials with a broad range of characteristics, submit requests to lab managers for ordering, compare products from different vendors and monitor delivery. Vendors that collaborate with Quartzy include MilliporeSigma, New England BioLabs, Qiagen, Bio-techne etc. For spending analysis and control, Quartzy offers integration with accounting software.
Buyers do not have to pay for the service, yet sellers pay for a place on the marketplace. The company’s clients include world top research institutes like Stanford, Oxford, Duke, Harvard Medical School, and industrial leaders like Kite Pharma, Abbvie and Beyond Meat. Quartzy’s financial support from investors equals $27.2 million and was received in 5 funding rounds.
The company was founded in 2009 by Jayant Kulkarni and Adam Regelmann.
Biohippo is an online marketplace for biotechnological products created for researchers and industry representatives in the biomedical space. It facilitates the procurement process for Life Science research by combining trusted manufacturers and suppliers on their website and normalizing product data. The catalogue of biological resources is vast: primary & secondary antibodies, various enzymes and their inhibitors/activators, proteins and peptides, assay kits, cell culture reagents, viruses, vectors, biochemicals and lab equipment. With the help of two partners — Synbio Technologies and Brain VTA clients can get personalized DNA, antibody and protein synthesis services.
Founded in 2017, Biohippo is located in Rockville, Maryland, and operates with a relatively small office — up to 10 employees. However, the convenient and user-friendly interface of the marketplace and an extensive list of products for research might lead to the steady development of the company.
Prendio is a procurement-to-pay solution for biotech research institutions and companies. It integrates all e-shopping steps necessary for Life Science projects: from processing requests and finding the best supplier with optimal pricing to ensuring safe transactions, invoicing, and delivery. Prendio is a startup launched by experts with 50+ years of experience in biotechnological procurement in 2015, with an office in the Greater Boston Area. Prendio clients are bound in a tight community and once someone orders specific products using Prendio software, they are automatically added to a common catalog visible for everyone. The company claims that they have already saved their clients $28 M and 197k hours since 2015.
Product Search & Comparison Engines
This category includes services, which are not "classical" marketplaces per se, but they gather and structure information about products and services, in some cases using artificial intelligence (AI)-based data scraping and mining, serving the purpose of classical marketplaces: effectively matching buyers and sellers.
Bioz (AI-driven search engine)
Bioz is a search engine for life science researchers with AI-driven data-mining, automatic dynamic categorization, objective data-driven ratings, and detailed recommendation workflows. The Bioz search engine guides life scientists towards optimal reagents (biologicals and chemicals) and tools (instruments and equipment) for them to use in their research experiments. All Bioz experimentation recommendations are based on objective scientific data that is mined and structured from over 33 million scientific journal publications (PubMed). Bioz has also developed a proprietary dynamic rating system, called Bioz Stars, which guides researchers towards optimal products to purchase and use in their specific experimentation assays and techniques. Bioz provides these insights to scientists in two key formats: first, via its Bioz platform which showcases over 300 million products from 50,000 vendors; and second, via product supplier websites with its proprietary solution — advanced data-widgets called Bioz Badges. These two innovative Bioz solutions have taken off rapidly, as Bioz has already attracted over 7 million users from 196 countries including all of the top biopharma companies and academic institutions.
For over 20 years Biocompare has been the leading global resource used by more than 2.5 million life scientists to learn, decide upon, and stay informed about the products and services that fuel their research and discovery. Biocompare's mission, to provide free, time saving services to life science researchers, is accomplished by providing scientists access to data and information that help them make better purchasing decisions. Biocompare resources include the world’s most comprehensive product directory that contains over 7 million products from more than 400 suppliers, specialized search and product comparison tools to help them better pinpoint products of interest, articles that help them keep abreast of the latest technology, product reviews, buying guides and tips, product usage best practices, videos that help them understand the technology they use, and webinars that provide real world applications and case studies from their peers.
Biocompare also employs a sophisticated algorithm that mines the scientific literature to find citations for the products listed in their directory. Enhancing the product directory with the citation database provides researchers with information about how the products have been used previously, giving them insight into finding the right tool for their experiments.
Biocompare’s content strategy is designed and executed to ensure that Biocompare remains a trusted and comprehensive resource for scientists. Biocompare continually strives to serve the life science community by providing new and improved online services that facilitate product discovery and technology education.
BenchSci is a Toronto-based company with a focus on developing technology with artificial intelligence which can give researchers specific information on their intended experiment, thus reducing time spent on researching and planning materials. The company has two platforms: the AI-Assisted Reagent Selection and the AI-Assisted Antibody Selection. The former platform has the capability of selecting the reagents for an experiment in as little as thirty seconds, whereas traditional research would take weeks. The latter platform aids researchers with finding appropriate products for the experiments using a database of more than 10 million scientific publications. The companies platform includes 14 million scientific publications as well as vendor catalog data for more than 64.6 million products from 400 vendors, and validations from third-party organizations including The Human Protein Atlas, EuroMAbNet, and Encode.
BenchSci was founded in 2015 by Tom Leung, David Q Chen, Elvis Wianda, and Liran Belenzon.
R&D Outsourcing Services
Science Exchange powers R&D outsourcing for the world’s top life sciences companies. Their marketplace gives scientists access to the innovation and research they need and their platform fully automates R&D outsourcing from source to pay.
Under one contract with Science Exchange, scientists can work instantly with 3,500+ scientific suppliers, offering 7,000 service categories, without the usual delays caused by contract negotiations and supplier onboarding. They boost productivity with a secure, easy-to-use interface that simplifies supplier collaboration, project management and automates payment processing.
Customers like Merck, Gilead, BMS, Vertex, AbbVie, Astellas and dozens of leading biotechs trust Science Exchange to transform their R&D outsourcing, accelerating their discoveries and saving millions of dollars.
Scientist.com (formerly Assay Depot)
Scientist.com is artificial intelligence (AI)-powered network of public and private e-commerce marketplaces that connects buyers and suppliers of research services. The mission of the company is to remove barriers for innovations and speed up medical research. The marketplace provides powerful tools for R&D outsourcing of all sorts: More than 10 M products are available at the marketplace, as well as thousands of services and more than 40 thousands providers. Once logged in to the marketplace, the user gets operational support from 24/7 research Concierge® service, and all the necessary administrative and legal contracts in place for the seamless business interaction between users and vendors.
In 2021, the company developed the Disease Model Finder™ tool that allows to compare models of different diseases. The Disease Model Finder™ is based on the COMPLi® proprietary platform and is empowered by big data. Other solutions include Biotech Investors tools, Compliance Solutions, Contract research Map, Lab Auditing Services and Supplier only Payments.
The company was founded in 2007 by Kevin Lustig, Chris Petersen, and Andrew Martin with the first online marketplace launched in 2008.
Genohub is Texas-based niche marketplace that was created in 2013 specifically for researchers in need of next-gen sequencing services. It provides a flexible way of procuring and managing sequencing services, bioinformatics services, and optical genome mapping services. The website allows vendors to list not only regular services, but also one-time offers with flexible pricing and turnaround times to get runs moving faster. The marketplace supports automated matching and pricing functionality to streamline the operational part of work for both vendors and buyers. Researchers can search for providers and services using a variety of metrics. Complete e-commerce functionality is supported with the ability of ordering, payment and data delivery.
Labtoo is a start-up that was founded in Paris in 2017. Labtoo marketplace gives R&D project leaders the possibility to connect with the best experts and laboratories. The spectra of services searchable on the platform cover genomics, proteomics and analytics, cell lines and samples, and consultancy in scientific, therapeutic, or regulatory questions. Laboratories and experts delivering expertise have an option to get revenue or generate a credit to use it towards ordering expertise for its own projects.
Currently Labtoo’s network spans more than 500 service providers in France and Europe.
R&D Crowdsourcing (open innovation challenges)
Innocentive (Was acquired by Wazoku)
Innocentive is an open innovation marketplace connecting companies — seekers — with a wide network of scientific or engineering professionals — solvers. Seekers can publish offers to solve a particular research problem for a fixed cash award — so-called “open innovation challenges”, while solvers can provide their offers to solve the problem. The platform has all the legal documents in place to make sure any intellectual property or confidentiality matters are in check.
As of the present time, the solvers' network counts more than 380,000 specialists from nearly 200 countries. Among the seekers who placed challenges on Innoceptive are Shell, P&G and even US Navy.
The company was founded in 2001 in Waltham, MA, with a major seed contribution from Eli Lilly and Company, and later in 2005, the Innocentive was spun out of Eli Lilly. Innocentive has a representative office in London, UK. To date, the project has raised $30.3M in 4 rounds of investment. In 2020, the company was acquired by another enterprise innovation platform Wazoku.
Clora is a classic two-sided marketplace matching life science consultants and biopharmaceutical organizations that need talent for realizing research projects. This Boston-based startup, founded in 2016, already raised $6 million seed round from Spark Capital and a number of co-investors. Clora has aquired Legit, an AI-powered expert network for life scinces.
When a customer posts a project with its highly specialized research requirements, Clora’s proprietary technology selects up to 3 candidates meeting the requirements, providing a 100% success rate in matching within days. The website categorizes talent into 29 different specialties, ranging from research and production to legal, accounting, safety/pharmacovigilance. Essentially, this marketplace transforms a highly laborious biopharma hiring process into an algorithmic and well-managed workflow.
Legit (Acquired by Clora in 2021)
Legit was a start-up from MIT founded by Jacob Rosen, Anthony Bucci, and Matthew Osman in 2018. In the same year, Legit launched an AI-enabled collaboration platform for life science businesses, where customers can find and connect with experts in their field fast and effortlessly.
Legit product focuses on improving efficiency across drug design, medical device development, and external alliances. It has raised $2.6 million for its platform in 2018 and its software is being used by big pharma companies like Amgen, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson.
The company claims that its platform connects 2 million experts in the life science industry, essentially being a smart marketplace for talent sourcing. Moreover, Legit helps in searching not only external but internal profiles as well, enabling clients to find experts inside their companies. Additionally, Legit handles scheduling, compliance, payments, transcripts, legal processes, and provides the security of data. Clients can upload the entire documents to the platform in order to find matches with leading experts and publications. Then the proprietary natural language processing algorithms will decompose part of documents into constituent topics, facilitating the exploration of the relevant ideas.
Biospecimens and health data
iSpecimen is a niche marketplace for human biospecimens, where researchers can get the specimens they require for the projects from a category of patients they need. iSpecimen marketplace streamlines and centralizes the process of connecting healthcare organizations that have access to patients and specimens with researchers in need. Owing to proprietary cloud-based technology, the marketplace users can search for specimens and patients within a federated network of partners, including hospitals, biobanks, blood centers, labs, and other healthcare organizations. The marketplace and its internal workflow are designed and regulated to meet strict industry standards and comply with sensitive data transfer regulations.
Founded in 2009 and based in Lexington, MA, the company went on IPO in summer 2021, raising more than $20M.
Longenesis is a SaaS company based in Latvia and Hong Kong, co-founded by Insilico Medicine. It focuses on developing legitimate ways to promote collaboration between biomedical institutions, patient organizations, and paying research partners by identifying biomedical data from anonymized metadata files, further onboarding patient or population cohorts in studies, and engaging them in new research initiatives. This is achieved through the implementation of a universal toolkit, composed of three interrelated products. Longenesis Curator is an ecosystem where clinical institutions and patient organizations are connected in consortiums with potential collaboration partners and sponsors to initiate further collaboration. Longenesis Themis is an in-house-built SaaS digital patient consent management tool that enrolls patients into research activities by getting auditable and transferable permissions. Longenesis Engage is a digital patient-centric tool to engage participants in prospective studies and manage these studies remotely.
The company raised $1.2M in 2 rounds of investment. In 2020 Longenesis started a collaboration with Deep Longevity to give hospitals and clinics access to Deep Longevity’s aging clocks.
Fine Chemicals (building blocks, screening compounds, intermediates)
Chemspace is an open platform for searching and ordering small molecules: commodity reagents, building blocks, and screening compounds, which are demanded in early-stage drug discovery research and medicinal chemistry programs. Chemspace is the largest online catalog of small molecules and biologics in the world, currently hosting more than 130 suppliers located worldwide and an aggregated catalog of over 4.4 billion unique small molecule structures and over 500 thousand biologics (antibodies, peptides and proteins, and biologics kits). The main focus of this platform is to provide medicinal and organic chemists with comprehensive coverage of previously unchartered chemical space and stimulate new synthetic ideas.
Chemspace has a chemical structure drawing tool (MarvinJS) and a sophisticated search module with different advanced filtering options. It is possible to surf the catalog by chemical structure (exact match, substructure, and similarity), CAS number, MFCD numbers, IUPAC name, catalog identifiers, and InChI keys. The Chemspace catalog is available via punchout integration with a client ERP and via an API with a client application (i.e. KNIME, DataWarrior).
The company was founded in 2015 and has offices located in Europe, in the United States and in Ukraine.
eMolecules is one of the oldest marketplaces for drug discovery products — it has over 40 employees, three international offices in California, Boston and London, and 16 years of history. Its catalog includes chemical building blocks and screening compounds, as well as an extensive list of antibodies for CRO corporations, pharmaceutical, biotechnological and academic organizations. Overall, more than 8 million fine chemicals can be purchased on the marketplace from reliable suppliers worldwide. For special requests, the company suggests custom synthesis chemistry & custom libraries in qualities from mg to kg and any desired purity.
To streamline procurement workflows, eMolecules provides business intelligence data and integrated e-commerce software, in addition to private websites for purchasing that can be fully customized. Such websites are integrated with the eMolecule database and updated systematically but show only chosen suppliers in a preferred ranking, with an adapted colour scheme of the website and a logo of a client company. The chemical search tool on emolecules.com allows drawing, text search by formula, CAS number, IUPAC nomenclature or SMILES notation.
In March 2021 eMolecules was purchased by Avista Capital Partners at $250 million valuation.
For more than 15 years Molport has been operating on the European market of fine chemicals. The marketplace offers full-cycle screening compound sourcing services: product selection from 60+ global suppliers and a database of almost 8 million listings, reformatting of samples, logistics and even testing and quality control. In addition, it provides integrations with cheminformatics software from Schrodinger, MOE and StarDrop. For pharmaceutical chemistry and custom synthesis purposes, Molport has a range of building blocks too.
Advanced text filters and MarvinJS chemical structure search ensure easy navigation through Molport catalogues. As for procurement management, Molport provides consolidation services from different vendors into a single shipment, as well as customs clearance for ordering from abroad. The platform has technical capabilities for automated workflows setup through API and KNIME nodes.
Molport’s office with around 30 workers is based in Riga, Latvia. Since 2013 in 3 funding rounds the company received $1.34 million from investors like Imprimatur Capital Fund Management and FlyCap.
Topics: Emerging Technologies