Vertex pharmaceutical to acquire Type 1 diabetes biotech firm Semma Therapeutics

Vertex is to pay $950m in cash for the Cambridge, MA based biotech firm and will acquire all outstanding shares of the firm. Semma will become a subsidiary of Vertex pharmaceuticals, with Semmas CEO set to join Vertex and continue as the CEO.

Semma was founded to develop therapies for type 1 diabetes patients who depend on insulin injections. It is a pioneering firm, with its use of stem cell research as a potential cure for type 1 diabetes. The biotech has been able to produce large quantities of functional human pancreatic beta cells that restore insulin protection and ameliorate hypoglycaemia in animal tests. In addition to these findings, the biotech firm has developed a device that captures and protects these cells from the immune system, which in turn allows for durable implantation without the need for ongoing immunosuppressive therapy.

This deal for Vertex follows a string of others as it seeks to diversify its pipeline portfolio from its Cystic Fibrosis franchise. The company has been a pioneer in this field with it recently submitting approval for its landmark triple combination therapy. If approved this treatment would be a huge gamechanger for Cystic Fibrosis sufferers, where it could be used to treat 90% of all CF sufferers worldwide.

This acquisition of Semma will set up a rival for Novo Nordisk, where last year the Danish company secured a milestone in the same area of stem cell therapy in type 1 diabetes. The first clinical trials for both companies could begin within the next few years, setting up a potential race to first in class.

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