Coming out of the Labor Day weekend, Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced a plan to acquire ambitious medical technology start-up Semma Therapeutics for an impressive $950 million. Apparently, Boston-based Vertex is hedging its bets on its neighbor’s new, early-stage science leading the charge for a widely available, fully-functional cure for type 1 diabetes.
Vertex Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Leiden, MD, Phd celebrates, “This acquisition aligns perfectly with our strategy of investing in scientific innovation to create transformative medicines for people with serious diseases in specialty markets.”
Semma’s exciting approach is based on seminal research from Harvard University stem cell scientist Douglas Melton. Actually, Semma takes the existing work another step further by changing moldable stem cells into beta cells, which are the insulin-producing machinery that is mistakenly attacked by the body’s immune system in a person who has Type 1 diabetes.
Now, it is important to note that Semma’s approach is still a novel one. However, if it works—if lab-developed beta cells can eventually replace those naturally lost during type-1 diabetes—the firm may have, in fact, uncovered a permanent solution to the condition. Type 1 diabetes afflicts more than 1 million people in the United States alone so this treatment could be a literal life-saver in so many ways, for so many people.
Accordingly, Leiden continues, “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.”