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Neuro Drug Developer iPierian Nets $30M

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iPierian drug developerOriginally published on

iPierian drug developerOriginally published on

Rather than leveraging stem cells for therapeutic use, iPierian Inc. has been using them to create disease models with which it can screen and develop new drugs. Now, with $30 million it’s just collected from investors, iPierian Inc. plans to split two distinct R&D programs that have emerged from those techniques into different companies.

Some of the investment money will continue to fund iPierian’s drug development efforts in neurodegenerative disease. The other portion of it goes toward a Series A for a new spinout called True North Therapeutics. The company declined to specify how the funding was divided.

“Given recent positive developments with promising drug candidates, we believe that creating two companies, iPierian and True North, opens up a wider range of possibilities for partnering discussions, allows each company to explore new indications and pipeline opportunities, and optimizes the value to shareholders and patients with the assets built through the scientific legacy of iPierian,” said Jim Scopa, managing director at MPM Capital, in a statement.

MPM Capital co-led the round along with GlaxoSmithKline’s venture capital arm, SR One, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Existing investors like Biogen Idec and Google Ventures also participated, iPierian said.

Since its inception in 2008, the South San Francisco company has been working with a drug discovery platform based on a novel cell regeneration technique. Developed by Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, the techniques allow scientists to convert adult stem cells back into ones that behave like embryotic cells in their ability to be coaxed into a variety of different cell types.

That platform has been used to grow diseases in a dish,” as CEO Nancy Stagliano described in an interview last year, to allow researchers to develop a better understanding of how certain drugs would behave in humans. One of the R&D programs it has yielded targets the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by tangles of Tau protein, including Alzheimer’s disease. The other targets the classical complement pathway to treat autoantibody-driven rare diseases.

True North Therapeutics was spun off to continue development of the latter program and its lead candidate, TNT009, a monoclonal antibody the company says selectively inhibits a target of the classical complement pathway. The complement system is a part of the immune system that helps the body clear pathogens from an organism. True North says it’s developing drugs for rare diseases in the hematological, renal and neurological therapeutic areas, but a company representative declined to be more specific. With the Series A funding, the company hopes to file an IND within the next 12 to 18 months.

Meanwhile, iPierian will continue working on IPN007, its lead drug candidate for the treatment of tauopathies, with plans to file an IND application in 2014. Following the failure of a group of drugs that went after a different protein, beta amyloid, in clinical trials, the next wave of clinical trials for Alzheimer’s seems to include more products focused on the tau hypothesis. TauRx Pharmaceuticals, for example, is running two late-stage clinical trials for a drug designed to dissolve tangles of tau in the brain. Eli Lilly also recently acquired rights to develop a diagnostic agent to detect tau.

Stagliano, former CEO of CytomX Therapeutics, will continue to head iPierian and will also serve as CEO of True North Therapeutics.

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