Benchling: Github for Geneticists

Cloud based gene editing

Software developers have long enjoyed the ability to work together on a single project without having to go through the hurdle of sharing codes after each change they make. In fact, it was this ability that lead to open source revolution in software. In comparison to this, softwares for geneticists have so far been stuck in the stone-age, when it comes to online collaboration, that was up until now. Benchling is a new cloud based tool meant to bring the same level of collaboration and feasibility in the area of genetics as in software.

An investor backed MIT startup, incubated at Y-Combinator, Benchling is bringing about a transformation in the way researchers collaborate. It enables researchers to edit, analyze, share/collaborate and design sequences, all in the confines of a browser. Users can create libraries of their sequences and allow access to colleagues who can make their modifications or annotations to the same. It brings the same level of flexibility and collaboration that widely used tools such as Github bring to software development and Google Drive brings to creating presentations. Any modifications are noted down in Benchling’s version history, a feature that most biologists wouldn’t be aware of, but will surely adore once they get used to it.

Benchling: Features

Among its many features include tools for easy sequence manipulation, NCBI BLAST search, translation and annotating regions on a gene. It supports multiple formats such as FASTA, GenBank, JBEI, vectorNTI, SBOL and even zip files that contain multiple sequences. Researchers frequently carrying out PCR are especially taken care of here with the sequence cloning tools such as the restriction panel that identifies restriction sites and finds compatible enzymes, it also helps in selecting buffers and calculating vector/insert aliquots. Researchers can also search and design primers with just one click and save them in their libraries. Benchling replaces many commonly used sequencing tools and in the near future the founders Sajith and Cory Li plan to sell custom and commercial primers through their website, further streamlining cloning.

Benchling: Free to Use

Currently in its open-beta stage, Benchling is free for personal and academic use. With synthetic biology and personal genomics gathering steam and research largely becoming a global process at universities, corporations and for DIY biologists, Benchling is heading in the right direction by enabling collaboration. Do let us know in the comments below how useful do you find it.

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