Vertex to acquire Semma Therapeutics

PROVIDENCE – Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. has entered into an agreement to acquire Semma Therapeutics for $950 million in cash, the companies announced Tuesday.

Both companies are headquartered in the biotech hub Kendall Square neighborhood in Cambridge, Mass.

Semma Therapeutics, in 2015, acquired CytoSolv Inc., a Providence-based startup that received early-stage funding from Slater Technology Fund, a publicly funded venture capital firm. Semma maintains offices in Providence.

The company works with stem-cell-derived human islets to create a potential curative treatment for type 1 diabetes.

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“This acquisition aligns perfectly with our strategy of investing in scientific innovation to create transformative medicines for people with serious diseases in specialty markets,” said Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, chairman, president and CEO of Vertex. “We are excited to work with the talented scientists at Semma to build on their significant progress toward providing effective and potentially curative cell therapy options for people living with type 1 diabetes. We see a substantial opportunity to transform the treatment paradigm for type 1 diabetes, a specialty disease cared for by endocrinologists, both by advancing the development and manufacturing of the cells themselves, as well as through the highly innovative cell/device combination.”

As part of the acquisition, Bastiano Sanna, president and CEO of Semma, will become president of Semma, which will become a separate operating subsidiary of Vertex.

The acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019. The deal will see all outstanding shares of Semma purchased.

Employees of Semma are expected to continue to operate out of their Rhode Island and Massachusetts offices at this time, according to a spokesman for Semma.

Douglas Melton, founder of the company, will remain on in his role as chair of Semma’s scientific advisory board.

“Semma was founded to dramatically improve the lives of patients with type 1 diabetes,” said Melton. “Vertex is ideally suited to accelerate the achievement of this goal.”

According to the companies Tuesday, Semma’s cell therapy approach is the only islet cell transplantation program to have demonstrated both positive c-peptide release (a marker of insulin secretion), as well as positive glycemic control of experimentally induced diabetes.

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