Regenerating cells as a way of treating diseased tissues and organs has been an attractive but elusive endeavor in medicine. Beyond the manufacturing challenges of these therapies, scientists must also contend with the risks of rejection and infection, along with ensuring that the therapeutic benefit lasts. Biotech startup Satellite Bio aims to overcome those challenges with a new take on tissue biology and it is now out of stealth backed by $ 110 million.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Satellite Bio selectively programs cells — the startup claims its technology platform works with almost any type of cell — and then assembles them into implantable therapies it calls Satellites. According to the company, these bioengineered tissue structures can repair, restore, or even replace dysfunctional or diseased tissue or organs. Satellite Bio adds that these implantable cells are fully functioning in the patient, overcoming hurdles encountered by earlier attempts at restoring organ function. Preclinical data have shown how this approach can work.
A 2017 paper published in Science Translational Medicine describes the implantation of bioengineered liver cells in a mouse model for chronic liver disease. The authors wrote that these artificial liver tissue “seeds” grew and multiplied after implantation. Also important, this transplanted tissue was able to carry out normal liver cell functions following the procedure.
Two of the authors of that paper are Sangeeta Bhatia, director of the Center for Nanomedicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Christopher Chen, director of the Biological Design Center at Boston University. The Satellite Bio technology stems from their research. Bhatia and Chen founded the company in 2020 along with Arnav Chhabra, who is the startup’s head of platform R&D.
Regenerative medicine has seen regulatory and clinical progress in the past year. Last year, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for StrataGraft, an engineered skin product for treating burn wounds. The agency also approved Rethymic, a regenerative therapy that Enzyvant Therapeutics developed to treat a rare, inherited immune disorder. Meanwhile, Humacyte has reached late-stage clinical development with its bioengineered blood vessels.
According to Satellite Bio, the flexibility of its technology enables it to tailor the engineered satellites to particular diseases and patient characteristics. The startup has not specified its disease targets other than to say it is pursuing “elusive, life-threatening diseases.” The company did say that its initial focus is the liver, building on the liver disease research that was published five years ago in Science Translational Medicine. At the helm of Satellite Bio is CEO Dave Lennon, the former Novartis executive who led that company to its first gene therapy approval, a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy.
The $ 110 million financing announced Wednesday is a combination of Series A and seed funding. The Series A financing was led by aMoon Growth. Other investors participating in the new round include former investors Lightspeed, aMoon Velocity, Polaris Partners and Polaris Innovation Fund, as well as new investors Section 32, Catalio Capital Management and Waterman Ventures.
“AMoon is proud of our continued partnership with Satellite Bio on its inspiring mission to restore hope to patients suffering from severe, life-threatening conditions,” Yair Schindel, co-founder and managing partner, aMoon Fund, said in a prepared statement. “This new wave of tissue therapeutics will save patients whose only other hope would be organ transplant or experimental therapies.”
Public domain image by Flickr user NOAA Satellites