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Bristol-Myers targets neurodegenerative diseases in $725M deal to buy iPierian

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Nancy Stagliano

About 7 months after splitting her company into two biotechs, CEO Nancy Stagliano has sold iPierian and its preclinical foray against neurodegenerative diseases--including Alzheimer's--to Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) for $175 million down and up to $550 million in milestones.

The highlight of the deal is IPN007, an antibody that targets tau, a toxic protein which is implicated in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. IPN007 is slated to begin a Phase I sometime next year for progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disease associated with tau dysfunction. And Bristol-Myers will study its potential for Alzheimer's disease as well, as the field considers combination therapies that target both tau and amyloid β, another toxic protein.

Bristol-Myers is paying a sizable amount upfront for a preclinical program, but the big biotech sees some big potential as it goes after genetically defined diseases.

iPierian's tau antibody tech designed to treat neurodegenerative diseases--Courtesy of iPierian Click image to enlarge >>

"As part of our evolution to a diversified specialty BioPharma company, we have identified genetically defined diseases as an area where the company has an opportunity to significantly advance the standard of care for patients with limited treatment options," said Francis Cuss, executive vice president and chief scientific officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb. "The acquisition of iPierian supports our growing efforts in this area and builds on Bristol-Myers Squibb's internal expertise and alliances focused on the Tau pathway and neurodegenerative diseases."

South San Francisco-based iPierian has followed a long and winding research road to get to this point. The company had initially assembled a stellar group of stem cell experts to help guide the company into one of the hottest R&D fields at the time. But despite all the talent, iPierian never achieved liftoff, eventually seeing a series of CEOs come and go through the revolving doors. After Stagliano came in about three years ago and iPierian was restructured, she quickly set her sights on the tau antibody and another antibody--TNT009--that zeroed in on a separate pathway, with potential in orphan diseases.

Stagliano set up True North to go after the orphan diseases last fall, intending iPierian to go after Alzheimer's and other "tauopathies." In an unusual split, both companies were run by the same team. Now, presumably, the team will remain intact at True North while handing over the tau program to Bristol-Myers.

- here's the release

Special Report: Nancy Stagliano - Top women in biotech 2013

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