Seahorse decides to make a splash

Company acquires BioProcessors and SimCell biomanufacturing technology

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NORTH BILLERICA, Mass.—Biotech materials company Seahorse Bioscience Inc. has acquired BioProcessors Corp. for an undisclosed sum that was boosted by $6 million in a Series D round of funding.

The concurrent financing included Commonwealth Capital, Oxford Bioscience, Flagship Ventures, Life Sciences Partners, FLIR Systems Inc., Healthcare Ventures, New Science Ventures and HLM Venture Partners.

Seahorse makes consumables and instruments for research, including its XF series of assay instruments, which measure energy consumption and mitochondrial function in cells in a 24- or 96-well microplate.

BioProcessors' "SimCell" technology allows biologic drug manufacturing to scale-up using plastic, microplate-sized cards with six small bioreactors, allowing researchers to run dozens of simultaneous experiments.

It was that technology that made the company a good fit, says Seahorse CEO Jay Teich, adding that the company will expand and grow the SimCell product line and markets.

The companies have already combined operations under one roof, according to Teich. BioProcessors' entire staff, less its CFO—about 14 people—became part of Seahorse and operate under the company's name. That brings the company's staff level to about 80 employees.

It wasn't a long drive. BioProcessors was located in Wilbon, Mass., about 30 minutes away from Seahorse's headquarters.

A key aspect of the new integrated company, with expertise in drug discovery and biomanufacturing, is the synergy of the technologies involved, according to Teich.

"We were looking for possible acquisition targets," he says. "The more we got to know BioProcessors and the fit, it really was remarkable."

Teich points out that SimCell "modernizes out-of-date technology by moving biomanufacturing groups away from shake flasks and toward using microbioreactor arrays. Now, one person, instead of carrying out 30 experiments over two weeks, can run hundreds of experiments during the same time."

The experiments can include studies for selecting clones, optimizing medium or determining the best process conditions for protein manufacturing.

Seahorse's "sweet spot" is engineering and biology to modernize cell-based science using "smart plastic" consumables and easy-to-use instruments. Teich says his company's XF series instruments measure energy consumption and mitochondrial function in cells in a 24- or 96-well microplate with precision and throughput. It has been used to gain insights into the metabolic deficiencies underlying many neurological diseases, obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as an early indication of potential toxicities of candidate drug compounds.

"Both the XF and SimCell technologies have reached some key milestones where thought-leading customers have demonstrated their value," Teich adds. "The next step is to take this technology and commercialize it."

With the addition of the people and technologies of BioProcessors Corp., Teich said his company will now work to expand and grow the SimCell product line and markets during the coming year.

"Our plan is to run with the technology and develop a new family of products," adds Teich.

The acquisition of BioProcessors is the second for Seahorse. In 2005, the company acquired Innovative Microplate, which gave the company the "capability of developing smart plastic consumables," which it uses in its XF product line and XF assay cartridges.

The work being done at Seahorse was a positive selling point in securing partners to finance the venture.

"Seahorse hit the nail on the head with its XF96 instrument and their business has grown steadily," says Jeff Hurst of Commonwealth Capital. "We believe that the SimCell technology will fuel continued growth in the years to come."

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