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UPDATE 1-Vertex to buy cell therapy developer Semma for $950 mln

(Adds details on Semma's therapy, background)

Sept 3 (Reuters) - Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Tuesday it would buy privately held Semma Therapeutics for $950 million in cash with an aim to develop potentially curative stem-cell based treatments for diabetes.

The deal represents Vertex's foray into a new treatment space, as the company typically develops treatments for cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder that causes damage to the lung and digestive system.

"We see a substantial opportunity to transform the treatment paradigm for type 1 diabetes, a specialty disease cared for by endocrinologists," said Vertex's Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Leiden.

Semma focuses on developing cell-based therapies that have been shown to control blood glucose levels in preclinical studies, and also develops a medical device to protect these cells from being attacked by the body's immune system.

Vertex expects to close the acquisition in the fourth quarter this year.

Shares of Vertex were up 1.2% at $182.1 in light premarket trading. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Shinjini Ganguli)