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Vertex’s next act: a billion-dollar bet on a cure for type 1 diabetes

Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced Tuesday that it plans to acquire an ambitious startup for $950 million, betting the company’s early-stage science could lead to a functional cure for type 1 diabetes.

The Boston company is buying Semma Therapeutics, a nearby firm turning stem cells into insulin factories. Based on the work of Harvard University stem cell scientist Douglas Melton, Semma’s approach involves turning moldable stem cells into beta cells, the insulin-producing machinery that is mistakenly attacked by the immune system in type 1 diabetes.

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