Semarion, a University of Cambridge spinout company, has closed a £2.1 million seed funding round. 

Emerging from the prestigious Cavendish Laboratory, Semarion combines materials engineering and cell biology to tackle unmet drug screening needs.

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

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-miniaturized, 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.

The key to commercialising a medical device

The company previously 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. 

“This is a crucial step towards the commercialisation of our SemaCyte cell assaying platform,” said co-founder and CEO Jeroen Verheyen. 

“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.”

Cassie Doherty, investment director at Parkwalk Advisors, commented: “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.”