Semma Raises $114M For Diabetes Cell Therapy


Massachuettes-based biotech Semma Therapeutics completes a raise of $114 million to take a potentially curative Type 1 diabetes cell therapy through clinical proof to concept. The round positions Semma to begin exploring whether its insulin-producing cells can control blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Semma surfaced in 2014 to capitalize on a breakthrough that qualified the production of pancreatic beta cells from undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells. Semma then raised a $44 million Series A round when it unveiled a $44 million and snagged a partnership with big pharma Novartis, which the startup chose over more diabetes-focused businesses because of its cell therapy chops.

Now, new investors Eight Roads Ventures and Cowen Healthcare Investments have co-led a round that will enable Semma to test whether its preclinical toil will translate into early clinical success. The series B is big enough to take Semma’s lead program through clinical proof of concept with enough left over to look into other regenerative medicine opportunities.

Semma is moving toward the clinic on the endorsement of research into how to administer beta cells so they deliver insulin to the body without being rejected by the immune system. The difficulties have been the main point of emphasis of research over the last two years at the startup, which started life with an understanding of how to generate beta cells, though it doesn’t have a device in which to capture them.

“Semma’s scientists have very effectively dedicated themselves to systems that reliably generate cells indistinguishable from human pancreatic beta cells and to the invention of novel devices that are immunologically protective and surgically practical,” Douglas Melton, Ph.D., Semma founder stated.

The company is now closing in on the target, at which it has all the pieces in place to begin testing the cells and device in humans. And, given the candidate’s potential to overturn the Type 1 drug and medical device markets, it has found financial, strategic and philanthropic investors willing to endorse these studies.


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