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the precise target, but she says the company is actively screening antibodies against it, and should have a lead drug candidate to push through preclinical drug development by later in 2012.
“This is big news for us,” Stagliano says. “These are complementary approaches, and it’s not clear yet which will win.”
The Complement pathway is known to immunologists for playing a key role in the innate immune system, and the promotion of inflammation that can be good (fighting off infections) and bad (autoimmune disease). Scientists are also beginning to better understand that Complement activation can be associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.
Through its IPSC technology, iPierian’s scientists have looked at how various brain cell types—neurons, astrocytes, microglia—are affected by variations in the Complement pathway. The company has identified a couple of targets through the Complement pathway—again, which it isn’t naming—that it believes have potential for drug development. “To our knowledge no one is developing drugs to these targets we are focused on,” Stagliano says.
Moving those programs through development will naturally take money. The company, which last raised a $28 million venture round in September 2010, will look to raise another round later this year, Stagliano says. If iPierian can do that, it will be based on its ability to hit traditional milestones of progress for antibody drug development, not on general excitement about the potential of stem cell technology. While the new direction probably won’t make the cover of any national magazines, Stagliano says she’s excited.
“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 says. “We really are going where the science is taking us.”