Seraxis, a company in the Montgomery County-supported Germantown Innovation Center (GIC), has announced that it has closed a $40 million Series C funding round led by Indianapolis pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. Seraxis is developing a cell therapy for insulin-dependent diabetes. The investment will allow the biotech to complete preclinical studies of its lead cell therapy and advance it to clinical (human) trials.
The company’s therapy combines patented highly pure insulin-producing cells with a proprietary encapsulation device for implant in the abdomen.
The company launched in April of 2013 in Montgomery County’s GIC, which is located at the Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus. It currently has two labs and three offices there. The company will now expand its operations into a commercial lab and office space and grow its five-person team to 15 employees within the next year.
“The flexibility of the GIC has been very helpful for Seraxis.” said Carole Welsch, the chief business officer of Seraxis. “We started with one lab and one office. As we grew and hired, it allowed us to add space and we are very grateful for that.”
Dr. Welsch also cited the uniqueness of the GIC space as key to Seraxis’ success.
“The facility had two already-built, sterile and GMP-compliant cell culture rooms, which were a main reason we located here,” she said. “This specialized space allowed us to save a huge amount of money—money we didn’t have when we started. It made a real difference in how fast we could start and move forward.”
GIC companies have another unusual advantage: access to Montgomery College’s scientific equipment.
“We crossed the parking lot to work with the equipment under a program created and managed by Dr. Collins Jones—he was tremendous and so helpful, sometimes on short notice,” said Dr. Welsch. “Sometimes you start testing a process and you don’t know if the equipment will be right - you want to be sure of it before you invest in it.”
The partnership worked both ways: Seraxis’ needs helped the College’s acquisition of new equipment, keeping the level of student training relevant to local companies so graduates are commercial lab-ready.
“Seraxis illustrates the value of the Montgomery County Business Innovation Network beautifully,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “Our 61 current tenants and hundreds of graduates in the technology, cybersecurity and life science fields are developing and commercializing valuable technologies that make a difference in people’s lives and add high-paying jobs in Montgomery County.”
The Business Innovation Network (www.mcinnovationnetwork.com) provides office and lab space for technology, cybersecurity, and life science startups as well as international companies in need of a soft landing in the U.S. market. The Network provides business education programming, mentoring and connections to help its member companies grow. A virtual membership option is available for companies that do not need physical space. In addition to the Germantown Innovation Center, Montgomery County supports innovation centers in Silver Spring and Rockville that feature office and coworking space.
Particularly successful incubator graduates include: Arcellx, a cell therapy company with 13,000 square feet of commercial space and approximately 40 employees in Gaithersburg; Rockville’s Machfu, an Industrial Internet of Things company named to the 2020 Most Promising Technology Companies of the Year list by SiliconIndia; immuno-oncology company BeneVir, which was acquired by Janssen for $140 million in 2018 and maintains a research and development presence in Rockville; and woman-owned health-IT company LiveHealthier, which grew to 120 employees in Silver Spring and was acquired by Centene.
Companies that believe they could benefit from incubator space, or those they want to learn more about the County’s innovation center program, can contact the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation at firstname.lastname@example.org.