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Semarion raises £2.14m for new cell carrier materials

An intriguing novel class of cell carrier materials is at the heart of Semarion’s successful £2.14m seed funding round, announced this week.

Tarun Vemulkar, co-founder and CTO, left, with Jeroen Verheyen, co-founder and CEO. Picture: Lina Juseviciute
Tarun Vemulkar, co-founder and CTO, left, with Jeroen Verheyen, co-founder and CEO. Picture: Lina Juseviciute

Semarion is a University of Cambridge spin-out company from the Cavendish Laboratory combining materials engineering and cell biology to tackle unmet drug screening needs.

The funding 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 Laboratory 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.

SemaCyte assaying microcarriers
SemaCyte assaying microcarriers

The company has already received pre-seed funding and business support from Start Codon, who supported the company’s transition out of the University. Investors in the new round include Parkwalk Advisors, University of Cambridge Seed Funds, Martlet Capital, and angel investors.

Jeroen Verheyen said of the funding success: “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. We are delighted to support the Company in this initial funding round and look forward to being a part of their continued success.”

Dr Del Trezise, advisor and non-executive director at Semarion, said: “Our investors have identified the potential of Semarion’s technology, which is uniquely positioned to address a significant market opportunity and revolutionise drug discovery approaches.

“I look forward to working with the team to support the company as it progresses to the next stage of commercial and scientific expansion.”

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