Slater-Backed CytoSolv Acquired by Semma Therapeutics to Develop Cell Encapsulation Technology

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Providence, R.I., November 16, 2015 – The Slater Technology Fund today announced that life sciences portfolio company CytoSolv, Inc., has been acquired by Semma Therapeutics of Cambridge, Mass. Semma’s mission is to use breakthrough stem cell technology discovered in the Melton laboratory at Harvard to develop an artificial pancreas that will allow treatment of diabetes without the need for daily injections of insulin or monitoring of blood sugar. The Melton discovery provides a method for transforming human stem cells into functional, insulin-producing beta cells to replace the beta cells of the pancreas that are lost in type 1 diabetes. Cytosolv’s contribution to the program will be to develop cell encapsulation technology for transplanting these new beta cells into patients without the need for drugs that suppress the immune system.

The team from CytoSolv (now employees of Semma Therapeutics) will continue to operate in Providence out of recently expanded facilities at 117 Chapman Street. CytoSolv co-founders Moses Goddard, M.D., and Christopher Thanos, Ph.D., have been named chief medical officer and vice president of delivery, respectively, of Semma. Briannan Bintz, a principal scientist at CytoSolv since founding, will continue as director of delivery at Semma. The company will also continue the collaboration it has had with Warwick, R.I.-based Kineteks LLC, and John Mills, its principal scientist and technologist.

CytoSolv was co-founded in 2010 by Goddard, Thanos and Mills, focusing on technology developed in collaboration with Living Cell Technologies, Ltd. (LCT), a publicly traded company with operations in Australia and New Zealand. LCT was a pioneer in the development of porcine-based islet transplants for diabetes that relied upon cell encapsulation technology developed in collaboration with CytoSolv founders. CytoSolv’s initial focus was on the use of choroid plexus factors as a therapy for wound healing in diabetic foot ulcers.

In 2014, CytoSolv repositioned itself to focus on cell encapsulation, an emerging discipline in which the founders had substantial background and experience, having been engaged in several R.I.-based life science ventures. Dr. Goddard, who received his M.D. from Brown and has been on the faculty at Brown University since 1985, has played key roles in the development of R.I.-based ventures CytoTherapeutics, Inc., Neurotech, Inc., and LCT BioPharma, Inc. Dr. Thanos, who received his Sc.B. and Ph.D. degrees from Brown and currently maintains an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has also played principal roles at Neurotech, Inc. and LCT BioPharma, Inc.

The acquiring company, Semma Therapeutics, was founded in 2015 to develop transformative therapies for patients who currently depend on insulin injections. Work in the laboratory of Professor Douglas Melton led to the discovery of a method to generate billions of functional, insulin-producing beta cells in the laboratory based on human stem cells. Using the discovery, stem cells can be directed to develop into beta cells containing clusters that appear very similar to the so-called islets of Langerhans of the pancreas that are responsible for the control of blood sugar. Initial preclinical work in animal models of diabetes has shown that transplantation of these cells is sufficient to control blood glucose levels. This breakthrough technology has been exclusively licensed to Semma for the development of a cell-based therapy for diabetes.

Semma is focused on combining these proprietary cells with a state-of-the-art cell delivery and immune protection strategy that can protect these cells from the patient’s immune system and allow the beta cells to function as they do in non-diabetic individuals. Implantation of a beta cell-filled device has the potential to provide a true replacement for the missing beta cells in a diabetic patient and would not require patient immunosuppression. Semma is working to bring this new therapeutic option to the clinic and improve the lives of patients with diabetes.

Semma recently announced $44 million in initial funding, including a Series A financing led by MPM Capital with participation from F-Prime Capital Partners (formerly Fidelity Biosciences) and Arch Venture Partners. Other investors in Semma include corporate partners Novartis and Medtronic, both companies with major strategic interests in therapies for diabetes.

“CytoSolv is a particularly compelling example of how scientists in Rhode Island’s life science research enterprise are capable of commanding a role on a world-class stage,” said Richard G. Horan, senior managing director of the Slater Technology Fund. “In this case, the scientific legacy goes back to the earliest days of biotech in Rhode Island, to distinguished researchers such as Pierre Galetti and Patrick Aebischer and Michael Lysaght, all of whom played pioneering roles in the development of the enabling technology. We are thrilled to be part of this exciting endeavor.

About Slater Technology Fund

The Slater Technology Fund is an independently chartered economic development fund that operates in accord with best practices of venture capital investing, backing new ventures committed to basing and building businesses in Rhode Island. Leveraging state and federal funding, Slater focuses its resources on the support of entrepreneurs who have the vision, leadership and commitment to build substantial commercial enterprises. Slater typically invests at the inception stage in the development of a new venture, often based upon ideas and technologies originating in academic institutions and/or government research laboratories located within the region. In most cases, investments are premised upon the possibility of raising substantial follow-on financing, from venture capital investors or from strategic partners, with a view toward accelerating the generation of significant numbers of high-value, high-wage jobs over the intermediate to longer-term. For more information, visit www.slaterfund.com.

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