Semma Therapeutics is pioneering the new treatment paradigm of using cells as medicine. Combining stem cell technologies with proprietary material science, they are currently working on a functional cure for type I diabetes.
Occam was hired by Semma’s Board (investors from MPM and F-Prime) and Founder, Doug Melton of Harvard, to recruit the company’s first CEO. At the time, the company was preclinical and working on a cell-based therapeutic leveraging stem cells to generate insulin-producing cells capable of eluding the body’s immune system, thereby creating an organic cure for type I diabetes.
Looking to recruit its first CEO, Semma needed someone with experience in cell or gene therapy, but also with a long-term strategic perspective, managerial wisdom, and the operational chops to manifest the full potential of a high science platform. While hiring a serial CEO or someone from Big Pharma were both options, Occam also looked at highly qualified candidates who had the requisite characteristics and talents, even if they had yet to take on a CEO role.
Occam recruited Bastiano Sanna, Ph.D., who had previously served as COO at Magenta Therapeutics—a role in which he oversaw operations and finance, as well as clinical program development for gene therapy programs. Bastiano also brought technical and commercial skills from previous positions at Novartis’ gene and cell therapy unit and had a background working in healthcare strategy and investment banking. Within 18 months of Bastiano joining the company, Semma was sold to Vertex Pharmaceuticals for $1 billion.