Interdisciplinary working key to solving biological cell-based challenges

Harnessing power of the community

Developing that nugget of an idea into a real business is never easy but Tarun Vemulkar and Jeroen Verheyen were undeterred in their quest to explore the application space around their SemaCyte® cell-microcarrier technology. A NanoDoctoral Training Center (NanoDTC) Translational Research Fellowship at the University helped provide the foundations for this fledgling collaboration.

“Find a common ground of understanding between your disciplines”

During this Fellowship, they based their research at the Maxwell Centre, a hub for interdisciplinary and industrial activities on the West Cambridge campus and engaged with the Impulse Programme – a tech entrepreneurship catalyst based at the Maxwell Centre.

“This programme helped us further explore the commercial potential of our interdisciplinary collaboration, through tech entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds.”

Strengthening interactions between disciplines

Boosted by the Impulse programme, Semarion garnered support from the Cambridge CRUK Early Detection Programme and Prof. Grant Stewart to secure further research funding, and widened their network through the University’s Knowledge Exchange Facilitators.

Semarion use physical sciences technologies and approaches to solve fundamental challenges in biological cell-based experimental workflows, providing a unique perspective to approaching end-user problems. With interdisciplinarity at the core of their ethos it also opens up multiple funding streams – which in itself broadens the reach of company.

“The strength in our blend of scientific backgrounds gives us a powerful advantage as an early-stage company.”

  • Key Enablers
  • University Knowledge Exchange Network
  • Connect: Health Tech University Enterprise Zone
  • Key Enablers
  • University Knowledge Exchange Network
  • Connect: Health Tech University Enterprise Zone
Milner Therapeutics Institute - PhD Fellowship - Maxwell Centre Impulse Programme - Start Codon Accelerator - CRUK Early Detection Programme

TRL alpha trial pre-market deployment, Summer 2021

Capabilities and skills built

After the company was spun out of the University research domain, they engaged with Start Codon, a lifesciences and healthcare accelerator. Start Codon saw the potential of a physical and life sciences led technology to improve key areas of life sciences research and drug discovery and invested in the business to underpin the commercialisation plan. Semarion became part of the first accelerator cohort based at the Milner Therapeutics Institute in 2020.

Validating the technology

From summer 2021, Semarion will be running an alpha trial of their first product on assay-ready cells with the Milner Therapeutics Institute.

Semarion coded semacyte array

A new drug discovery platform

Semarion are working towards a Mark-1 product in the form of a SemaCyte® cell-microcarrier reagent to be used in drug discovery workflows in biopharma. This reagent product has two key value propositions (multiplexing and miniaturization) benefiting distinct customer segments.

Contract Research Organisations (CROs) need increased operational efficiency and cost savings, specifically for projects where they screen a multitude of cells against drug candidates. Semarion’s 10-plex cell multiplexing product will serve to enhance workflows to achieve a 10x direct reagents cost saving.

Semarion semacyte cell loading

Biopharma access to novel biology (targets, pathways, drug mechanisms) is key, coupled with a desire to study scarce and complex cell types, such as patient-derived tissue. Once validated Semarion’s bespoke assay miniaturization solution will serve to enable them to unlock new biology for specific programmes and future therapeutics.