Vertex Shells Out $950 Million for Semma Therapeutics

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, founded in 1989, is an American pharmaceutical located in Boston, Massachusetts. The company owns three research facilities in San Diego, California, and Oxford, England respectively and was one of the first firms to use the strategy of rational drug design instead of combinational chemistry. 

Vertex has been taking an interest in diabetes. Reports have come out that it has planned to close a deal with Semma Therapeutics for the treatment of type 1 diabetes in the fourth quarter. The deal is finalized in a whopping amount of $950 Million. 

1. What’s Semma Therapeutics? 

Semma was founded in 2014 solely by Dr. Douglas Melton, but it wasn’t until 2015 that they got attention by partnering with Novartis and making $44 Million in series A financing. In 2017, they were able to raise $114 million with the help of Novartis. 

Semma is known for its scientific approach for treating diabetes. Basically, their method comprises of two sub-parts. First, the pancreatic cells are transplanted into the liver of the patient; once transplanted, they produce insulin in the liver to maintain the sugar levels of the blood. However, such transplants are easier to kick off in the first place, but something needs to be done to keep the immune system from destroying itself. To prevent this, a device is injected into the patient’s body, which protects the transplanted cells in the body from the immune system. 

2. Why Did Vertex Took Interest 

Recently, Vertex is looking for ways to wipe out the conventional way of treating type 1 diabetes by using daily injections and replacing its once and for all chronic care. 

Following the acquisition, Vertex will have Bastiano Sanna take over as the President of Semma who was previously the CEO at Semma since mid-2018. Moreover, Semma’s scientific founder will be chairing the committee at Vertex. 

Vertex’s CEO Jeffrey Leiden was quoted saying, “This acquisition aligns perfectly with our strategy of investing scientific innovation in creating transformative medicines for people with serious diseases in specialty markets.” 

The deal made by Vertex is not only limited to this. Leiden, who is currently working as CEO is planning to step down and the leadership is expected to be transferred to Reshma Kewalramani. With Leiden serving as chairman, he has been reported to claim that he will be looking for more deals and expanding the company, including the business side as well. 

So, we arrive at the conclusion that acquiring Semma is just another milestone and not the whole journey. As Vertex has already shown its interest to focus on five diseases like AAT deficiency, pain, sickle cell disease, and others, hence the deal does not necessarily imply that it will be limited to type-1 diabetes only and could go on a lot further in the coming future for Vertex.

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