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22 February, 2022 - 11:23 By Tony Quested

Cavendish Laboratory spin-out Semarion raises $2.89m seed cash

Semarion – a spin-out from Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory combining materials engineering and cell biology to tackle unmet drug screening needs – has closed a $2.89 million seed round. 

The investment was led by Parkwalk Advisors with the University of Cambridge Seed Funds, Martlet Capital and angel backers also contributing.

The cash will support the commercial development of Semarion’s SemaCyte® cell assaying platform. It will also enable further expansion of the team as Semarion recruits scientists and engineers and establishes additional research partnerships with biopharma partners for bespoke solutions to cell screening challenges.

SemaCytes, developed by Semarion, are a novel class of cell carrier materials, created using microchip fabrication technologies, nanomagnetism, and smart materials.

These assaying microcarriers are flat and function as ultra-miniaturised, magnetically steerable wells which carry small colonies of adherent cells into suspension to improve cell-based experiments. 

They enable the controlled movement of cell types which need to stick to a surface, namely those typically used for in vitro drug screening work. By facilitating workflow automation, assay miniaturisation, and cell barcoding, this technology improves the quality and reproducibility of cell screening data while reducing the time and cost to deliver research outputs. 

SemaCytes integrate with existing workflows and are compatible with various multi-well plate formats, liquid handling tools, and imaging tools such as high-content screening equipment.

Semarion was co-founded at the Cavendish in 2018 by Jeroen Verheyen (CEO), Tarun Vemulkar (CTO) and Professor Russell Cowburn. Jeroen’s background in cell model development and Tarun’s experience in advanced materials and microfabrication drive Semarion’s vision to address foundational bottlenecks in drug discovery by integrating expertise across disciplines. 

Previously, the company received pre-seed funding and business support from Start Codon, a UK venture builder and investor, which supported the transition of the company out of the University.

Jeroen Verheyen said: “This is a crucial step towards the commercialisation of our SemaCyte cell assaying platform. We were excited to see our product testers appreciate its truly unique feature.

“We aim to keep working closely with biopharma partners to address their unmet cell screening needs. I would like to thank all our investors and supporters for believing in the Semarion team and the SemaCyte technology.”

Cassie Doherty, Investment Director, Parkwalk Advisors, added: “There is a clear need within the industry for Semarion’s new platform, to support in vitro research on cell models.”

• PHOTOGRAPH: Semarion CTO Tarun Vemulkar and CEO Jeroen Verheyen. Picture credit – Lina Juseviciute.

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