Satellite Bio lifts off with $110M to fuel development of its implantable tissue therapies

Satellite Bio has told mission control it’s ready for launch, blasting out of stealth mode with $110M in seed and series A funding to rocket its implantable tissue treatments forward and progress a product into the clinic. 

The latest fundraising haul announced Wednesday will be used to further develop the company’s Satellite Adaptive Tissue (SAT) platform, which will enable engineered whole cells (called "satellites") to be implanted into patients to repair or even replace damaged organ tissue. The investment was led by aMoon Growth and included additional support from Polaris Partners and Lightspeed, among others. 

After spending more than two years under the radar, Satellite’s unveiling marks its official arrival after it was founded in 2020 by Sangeeta Bhatia, M.D., Ph.D., and Christopher Chen, M.D., Ph.D. The two researchers, from MIT and Boston University, respectively, built Satellite off the work of Robert Langer, a Mount Rushmore-type figure in tissue engineering, with the aim of developing a new method of regenerative medicine. What bloomed, with additional assistance from Arnav Chhabra, Ph.D., was the company’s first modality, Tissue Therapeutics. 

The company is led by Dave Lennon, Ph.D., who was previously president of neurological genetic disorder-focused AveXis before it was acquired by Novartis and ultimately renamed Novartis Gene Therapies. In an interview with Fierce Biotech alongside Satellite's chief business officer Laura Lande-Diner, Ph.D., Lennon expressed confidence that the company’s whole cells are securely engineered to withstand implantation. 

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“We’ve basically engineered implantable tissues that can replicate that natural situation for the cells to function properly and impart a therapeutic benefit,” the CEO said. 

The company reported that in vivo tests of its “satellites” in animals showed a “full repertoire” of cell function. Lennon wouldn’t specify which animals the biotech was testing on but said they had demonstrated proof of concept in both small and large animal models. The tests not only proved the therapies’ application against disease but also that they could be scaled in a way that could satisfy the FDA, he said.

In terms of manufacturing, the company will outsource production of its raw materials, including cell products, but will own its “assembly” process—seeing the whole cell into its final form and packaging. Because the treatments are an off-the-shelf therapy, they can be assembled in about three days and would be made to order, ready to be implanted “in about a week's time,” according to Lennon. 

The expectation is that Satellite will first use Tissue Therapeutics to target liver diseases. As these treatments will initially require immunosuppressants, the company will likely focus on liver conditions with a positive risk-benefit when compared to an organ transplant. Ultimately the company would like to move upstream to become an earlier line of treatment, the CEO said.

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In addition to funding further development of the platform and expanding proof-of-concept data to other organs beyond the liver, Lennon said the $110 million—which he expects will last at least two years—will be used to push the company’s first asset into the clinic. Additionally, Lande-Diner acknowledged that for similarly-sized biotechs, it’s important not to overdevelop the platform. 

“The appeal of platforms is also its weakness, that you may get out of focus,” she said. “So we are very, very intentional at Satellite not to have that situation.” 

Lande-Diner noted that while the company will continue to invest in research to find additional value areas beyond the liver, “the entire platform is validated when you validate the first product, so you can’t ignore that.” 

The most immediate short-term milestone is preparing a pre-clinical package and working with regulators ahead of an application to begin phase 1 trials, Lennon said. Those conversations are expected to take place this year, but in initial talks the agency is already “quite excited about the platform,” the CEO added.