iPierian salvages new game plan after stem cell tech loses its sizzle

South San Francisco-based iPierian was never short of brainpower. It quickly attracted some of the top minds in stem cell research--as well as A-list financial backers--at a time when the field had turned sizzling hot, earning a Fierce 15 award in 2010 for its innovative approach. But after failing to find a commercial footing for its development technology, and running several CEOs through its revolving doors as it burned cash, the biotech is being reborn once again today. And now that the sizzle has been silenced in stem cells, it plans to put its more finely tuned technology to the task of discovering antibodies for neurodegenerative diseases.

The biotech announced this morning that it will use its expertise in developing disease models using induced pluripotent stem cells to pursue two new antibody programs targeting the Tau protein and the Complement pathway, routes that could lead to new therapies for Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative ailments. And as the developer outlined its new business plan, executives added that Portola veteran Pamela Conley had been hired to head up R&D.

Late-stage work on Alzheimer's has largely been focused on the toxic protein beta amyloid, but a number of developers have turned to the fiber tangles created by Tau proteins as a possible better pathway. But even with its promising stem cell platform, iPierian will have a long way to go. New iPierian CEO Nancy Stagliano tells Xconomy that the developer won't be in the clinic until 2014.

Ron Leuty at the San Francisco Business Times also notes that iPierian will be going back to the venture well, though Stagliano isn't saying how much she hopes to raise. The biotech has gained more than $50 million so far, with little to show for it. 

"I came into the company not exactly clear what direction we'd head, but it's been fun to see these data evolve and these directions evolve," Stagliano tells Xconomy's Luke Timmerman. "We really are going where the science is taking us."

- read the press release on the new game plan
- here's the press release on hiring Conley
- get the Xconomy story
- read the report from the San Francisco Business Times

Special Report: iPierian - 2010 Fierce 15