Key Biologics has completed its merger with Astarte Biologics to create a provider of research- and clinical-grade human immune cells, blood products, and associated services to the biopharmaceutical industry.


Image: Key Biologics merges with Astarte Biologics. Photo: Courtesy of patrisyu/

In conjunction with the merger the new entity also received an investment from Ampersand Capital Partners to continue expanding the company in the rapidly evolving cell and gene therapy markets.

Memphis-based Key has established itself as a trusted supplier of critical raw materials, specifically human cells used in fundamental research, cell therapy manufacturing and process development, and commercial immunotherapies.

Astarte brings highly complementary immunology expertise that will play a valuable role in expanding the combined company’s cell characterization, custom cell line and assay development capabilities. With the merger the company now has footprints in both Memphis and Seattle with plans to open a third site in Boston by 2019 to meet growing market demand.

Key Biologics founder Edward Scott said: “We are very excited to partner with Astarte to expand Key’s product and service offerings and rapidly scale the combined company to meet the growing demand for high-quality stem and immune cells in the research and therapeutic markets.

“The addition of Astarte not only brings valuable technical and operational expertise and service capabilities, it also adds a portfolio of well-characterized and antigen-specific immune cells that customers can use as critical research models in their drug development workflows.”

Bothell-based Astarte Biologics founder and CEO Anne Lodge said: “Our partnership with Key represents a highly complementary union of cell collection with downstream processing, characterization, and model and assay development capabilities. The combination enables us to accelerate programs in drug discovery and safety testing, enhance fundamental research, and streamline manufacturing process development.

“As the industry continues to appreciate the role of the immune system in disease pathology, as well as the ability to modulate it to treat various conditions, our unrivaled expertise in T cell biology positions us very well to support current and future customers.”

In conjunction with the merger and investment from Ampersand the combined business has added Joe Gentile as CEO and Bill Mercer to the board of directors.  Gentile brings over 30 years of experience in the life science and diagnostics markets and was previously the CEO of Stemgent/ReproCell and worldwide vice president and general manager of Becton Dickinson’s Bioscience business. He is an advisor to several life science start-ups in the Boston area.

Bill Mercer, a medical device industry veteran, joins as a director after a distinguished career spanning 28 years at Terumo BCT and its antecedent entities, COBE, Gambro BCT and Caridian BCT.  He brings global experience within the cell collection and processing market segments.  Scott and Lodge will serve as chief medical officer and chief scientific officer of the combined business, respectively.

Ampersand partner David Anderson said: “Key and Astarte represent excellent fits with Ampersand’s strategy of investing in growth-oriented businesses in exciting markets that we know well.  Each company has established leadership positions in specialty segments of the research and cell therapy development markets, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with an impressive management team focused on driving future growth and success of the business.”

Source: Company Press Release