The State of Tech Bio: Survey finds majority of biodevelopers write code and use machine learning; protein engineering is a top priority

Cradle, the platform that helps scientists to design and program proteins, today published the findings of its first BioDeveloper survey, exploring the methods and priorities of biodevelopers to build a picture of trends within the synthetic biology sector. The survey polled more than 150 biodevelopers and was conducted in partnership with Bits in Bio, a global community focused on building software for science.

Key findings from the survey include:

Coding is now a core skill for biologists - and mostly it is self-taught

  • Coding is now an essential skill for those working in biotech. More than 8 out of 10 wet lab scientist respondents (87%) now write code - with 55% of respondents writing scripts to automate workflows on a weekly basis and 39% programming data engineering or pipelines on a weekly basis.
  • A majority report that their coding skills are self taught. Three quarters (74%) of all respondents learnt by doing the job, with 63% having learnt through school or education
  • Python was the most common coding language with 97% of respondents using it in the past 12 months to conduct data analysis. Shell (Bash/Powershell) was the next most common coding language (used by 62%), followed by R (53%), SQL (41%) and HTML/CSS (13%)

A majority of biodevelopers are already using Machine Learning

  • Machine Learning is now an established tool in biology. Almost three quarters (73%) of biodevelopers said they currently use machine learning in their work. 26% of those that use Machine Learning do so on a weekly basis, with 20% doing so monthly.
  • 4 in 10 people working in an in silico role use ML currently (80%), with 68% of wet lab scientists currently using ML.
  • Adoption of Machine Learning is set to increase further. 82% of those who don’t already use Machine Learning in their work report they are interested in doing so in the future.

Protein engineering is a priority for biodevelopers

  • Proteins are a major area of interest for biodevelopers. The survey found that 71% of respondents are either working on protein engineering already, or are curious to explore it in the future
  • Protein engineering offers a diverse range of applications. Enzymes, antibodies, short peptides, and gene regulatory proteins were all areas of interest. 53% of people are interested in enzymes and 44% want to work on gene regulatory proteins in the next 12 months.

​As a business founded to make it easier for biologists to design and build proteins, we wanted to understand how biologists are using technology in their work and what they are using it for. It’s fascinating to see the growing role that coding and Machine Learning is playing in biology and it is clear that bench scientists are embracing these tools to further their work. With the rapid period of growth and maturation of AI technologies, this looks set to be the norm for how biologists work moving forward.

We were also struck by the emphasis on protein design. Proteins have the potential to be a central tool in tackling the big challenges of the future; from countering climate change and pollution, to curing diseases and generating environmentally friendly alternative resources for food, clothing, materials and chemicals. It is fantastic to see so much interest from biodevelopers in this sector as it shows a growing awareness of the potential proteins have to solve so many of the world’s most important problems.

Stef van Grieken, CEO and Co-founder, Cradle

Bits in Bio was created to provide a space for people building at the intersection of software and science. An important part of our work is gathering feedback from the community about the tools and technologies they are using on a daily basis. By sharing these results broadly, we hope to encourage greater communication amongst biodevelopers about best practices. It’s clear that software is becoming increasingly important to scientific discovery and we’re devoted to helping both scientists and developers navigate this exciting intersection.

Nicholas Larus-Stone, Creator of Bits in Bio and CEO, Sphinx Bio

The State of Tech-Bio report is based on a survey of 157 respondents from 18 countries around the world. The survey was fielded from 28th November 2022 to 5th January 2023

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Cradle, the platform that helps scientists to design and program proteins, today published the findings of its first BioDeveloper survey, exploring the methods and priorities of biodevelopers to build a picture of trends within the synthetic biology sector.

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