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Tuesday, December 12 Business

Stamford mayor welcomes “exciting” biotech firm to city

Sema4, a genomic testing company spun off earlier this year from the Mount Sinai Health System in Manhattan, announced Wednesday its arrival in Stamford with a press conference featuring Mayor David Martin. Last month, the company opened its headquarters in 28,000 square feet in the office complex at 333 Ludlow St., where it employs about 75.

“We were born and raised at Mount Sinai, and what we were doing got pretty successful and grew to a pretty good size, to a point where we felt like it’d be better to move that outside,” said Eric Schadt, founder and CEO of Sema4, in front of several dozen employees at the new offices. “Expanding dramatically in New York City is very difficult and expensive, so Stamford topped the list as being in this corridor.”

The new headquarters complements a laboratory Sema4 opened about two years ago in Branford, where it employs about 50. In total, the company has about 385 employees, with the remainder based in Manhattan.

Sema4 offers an extensive range of services that encompasses cancer tests, prepregnancy screenings for couples planning to have children, and soon prenatal assessments and newborn testing.

The company’s name refers to semaphore — a device used to send signals. Company officials said their organization aims to “discern signal from noise across trillions of data points” to gain insights into human health.

“I think this is pretty exciting,” said Martin, who was a biology major at MIT. “Ultimately, you will make lives better for some people. Some of those people you’ll never know who they are. You might save their child or give them a richer, longer life. And for someone who lost my wife to cancer last November, whatever you can do to push back that ugly disease, I’m in favor of it.”

Mount Sinai represents the sole investor in Sema4, although the company plans to eventually seek additional sources of capital.

Sema4 plans to expand its Stamford contingent to about 140 by the summer of 2018, according to Schadt.

The company has made two executive hires in the past month: Jamie Coffin, as president and chief operating officer, and Dr. Alan Copperman as chief medical officer. Coffin previously served as worldwide vice president and general manager at Dell, leading the Global Healthcare Life Science business for six years. Copperman is director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the vice chairman of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“I have had a huge amount of passion around genomics for my whole career,” Coffin said. “Eric is one of the visionaries in the health care IT industry, especially in the genomics space. He is one of the people that drives the leading edge.”

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In Stamford, Sema4 joins a small but growing biotech community, which includes Purdue Pharma and smaller firms such as Cara Therapeutics and Loxo Oncology.

“You’re living in a region driven by knowledge workers,” Chris Bruhl, president and CEO of The Business Council of Fairfield County, told the employees at the press conference. “This is an innovation city — it’s one of the first in the state of Connecticut to receive special innovation funding. This will be a good home.”

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

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