Automating Cell Culture and Cell Engineering

An interview with Jimmy Sastra, CEO and Co-founder of Monomer Bio
July 19, 2023

We’re delighted to share an interview with Jimmy Sastra, CEO and Co-founder of Monomer Bio - a startup on its way to automating cell culture workflows in one platform.

Please tell us about your background.

I’m the co-founder and CEO of Monomer Bio. I have 16 years of experience in building software-enabled labs and robotics software platforms.

I’ll highlight two career experiences. I was on the founding team and Vice President of Engineering at Transcriptic/Strateos, the world’s first biology cloud lab, and I was a robotics research associate at Willow Garage. Willow built a software development studio called ROS that some say has enabled the robotics revolution we see in autonomous cars on the road or robotic bin-picking in warehouses. With Monomer I similarly aim to make lab automation more intelligent. We are taking a practical approach to helping scientists execute their experiments. Along the way, we aim to bridge the information gap between execution in the wet lab and bioinformatics in the dry lab.

Please describe Monomer Bio and why you decided to start it.

Monomer develops data-centric software for automating cell culture and cell engineering experiments using commercially available instruments. By tightly bundling experiment execution and data management, we are able to center our interface around the scientific data being produced and the bench scientist operating the system. We think of our platform as a decision making system; scientists make decisions and modify methods based on a real-time feed of analyzed culture data. Monomer collects data in the background while scientists focus on designing experiments and running biology.

I witnessed the convergence of biology, data science, and automation led by software-driven biotech labs like Recursion, In sitro, and Transcriptic/Strateos (where I was a member of the founding team). Some call this TechBio - our goal at Monomer is to imbue all labs with TechBio super powers.

What kind of results and outcomes are you helping your customers achieve?

Our long term mission for the industry is to bridge the gap between the biologists in the wet lab and the bioinformaticians in the dry lab.

Lab automation is a critical piece of this puzzle; data aggregation and curation is best done at the source. Our automation software curates data (execution parameters and readouts like microscopy images) in the background, allowing biologists to focus on designing experiments and executing protocols. Bioinformaticians then plug their ML analysis pipelines into Monomer’s framework, speeding up decision making and collecting expert annotations from their collaborators “for free.”

What can we expect to see from Monomer Bio in the coming months?

We have a robust execution platform that connects standard instruments into a powerful cell culture work cell centered around a robotic arm. We’re going to continue deploying cell culture work cells for a variety of use-cases to improve our product and deepen our experience. Simultaneously, we’re working with development partners to refine our Cell Culture Manager image management and decision making system for growing cells at high parallelization. We’re excited to share our learnings and developments with the broader biotech community!

Is there anything else you would like to share about Monomer Bio?

We love geeking out about cells and how to grow them. We believe in the power of community and are eager to share our hard earned lessons. If you’d like help growing cells, even if you’re not ready yet for automation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. One of our values is to always help scientists automate their cell biology. We’re eager to learn from you!