Q&A with David Lucchino, Semprus BioSciences
Semprus BioSciences is a venture-backed biomedical company spun out of MIT’s famed Langer lab four years ago. The company’s current focus is to develop a vascular access catheter with the first single surface modification that is designed to simultaneously reduce microbial adherence and thrombus accumulation over the life of the device.
In 2006, MIT Institute Professor and Semprus co-founder Robert Langer, Sc.D., anticipated a fundamental healthcare shift that emphasized outcome based quality measures. Semprus seized on Dr. Langer’s vision and began innovating and engineering beyond what it saw as the key design constraint of medical devices – surface failure and the subsequent limited duration of any applied coating.
Semprus closed on an $18M Series B financing co-led by SR One, GlaxoSmithKline’s venture group, and Foundation Medical Partners, a national healthcare venture capital firm with strategic ties to the Cleveland Clinic, in December 2010. 5AM Ventures and Pangaea Ventures were the initial institutional investors in 2007. Scott Rocklage, Ph.D., a Managing Partner of 5AM Ventures, is the company’s Chairman.
The company recently received a credit from the new federal Qualified Therapeutic Discovery Project program.
David Lucchino is CEO of Cambridge-based Semprus Biosciences, a company developing the first implantable and permanently antimicrobial coating targeting the medical device market.
How were you made aware of the Qualified Therapeutic Discovery Project (QTDP) program?
We became aware of the Qualified Therapeutic Discovery Project soon after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law because Semprus has been the recipient of federal funding. Both Senator Kerry (D-MA) and Congressman Capuano (D-MA, 8th) were very proactive in alerting companies of this opportunity.
What were the main factors in your decision to apply for the QTDP credit?
What initially drew our attention to the QTDP credit was the opportunity it provided to recover our R&D investment and apply it to our required product development. As a small company, albeit rapidly growing, we operate on limited resources and need to be extremely efficient with our resources.
Can you tell us about your application?
The project we submitted on our application was our Semprus Sustain™ Technology, which is a single-surface modification that simultaneously reduces microbial and platelet adhesion on medical devices after months of blood exposure. We are poised to have our first product approved by the FDA within the next twelve months.
Why is the QTDP program important to Semprus? What does it allow you to do that you would otherwise not be able to?
The QTDP was a boon to our company’s operations because it provided us with funds to perform preclinical testing on our Sustain™ Technology, which was an essential aspect of preparing for our regulatory submission. In a business climate where every cent counts, the QTDP came at the perfect time and we are grateful for MassBio’s tireless work on securing this credit for emerging companies like Semprus.
MassBio is working with the Massachusetts Delegation to try to have these credits extended. In your view, what are the best tangible results to make that argument?
Since we’ve received the QTDP funds, Semprus has grown from 21 full time employees to our current roster of 28. We deployed this funding to expand our company at a time when many companies were trimming payrolls.
We have also been in close contact with the Massachusetts Delegation, including working with Sen. Kerry’s office, and are thankful for the time and effort our representatives have spent fighting on our industry’s behalf on Capitol Hill. We are hopeful the credit can be extended as we drive toward the collective goal of improving the quality and outcomes of the healthcare system. It is difficult for small companies to be heard sometimes. In this sense, we have been fortunate.