Wednesday, September 14, 2011

High Level Changes at iPierian, a Firm With Deep Roots in California Stem Cell Effort

The South San Francisco stem cell firm, iPierian, which has a special and early connection to the California stem cell agency, has been undergoing major changes in the past few months.

 The latest came last week when it announced it has hired a new CEO, Nancy Stagliano, who was replaced Aug. 11 as CEO at another South San Francisco firm, CytomX Therapeutics.

Luke Timmerman of the Xconomy website wrote on Sept. 7 that Stagliano was named to the iPierian post after the firm "prioritized the company’s efforts over the past several months toward using its (ips) stem cell technology to help discover drugs for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and spinal muscular atrophy."

 Last May,  iPierian unloaded most of its executive team. A few weeks later, the board chairman, Corey Goodman, quit. With Stagliano's arrival, interim CEO Peter Van Vlasselaer will become executive chairman of the board.

Major investors in iPierian, including John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers of Menlo Park, contributed nearly $6 million to the 2004 campaign for Prop. 71. The figure was 25 percent of the total contributed to the campaign, which was run by former CIRM Chairman Robert Klein, a real estate investment banker. As far as we know, no other biotech firm can claim to have that sort of early linkage to the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

CIRM has awarded $7.2 million to iPierian. One grant amounted to about $1.5 million with Berta Strulovici as the principal investigator. The other was for about $5.7 million with Michael Venuti as the PI.

The firm has a cast of stem cell luminaries associated with it, including Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and the Gladstone Institute, along with  George Daley of Harvard University. Daley is a co-founder of iPierian. He also was a member of the blue-ribbon review panel that analyzed CIRM's activities last fall and is a current member of the CIRM grants review group.

Deepak Srivastava of UC San Francisco and Gladstone is also a co-founder and scientific adviser to the firm. He holds $6.6 million in CIRM grants. Other scientific advisers include CIRM grant recipients Benoit Bruneau, UCSF-Gladstone, $2.8 million, and Bruce Conklin, UCSF-Gladstone, $1.7 million.

Kevin Eggan, Amy Wagers and Chad Cowan, all of Harvard, are scientific advisers to iPierian as well as members of the CIRM grant review group.

Members of the CIRM grant review group are barred from taking part in the discussions or voting on grants on which they have conflicts of interests. Reviews are conducted behind closed doors.

Yamanaka said in an iPierian news release earlier this year,
“Many of my colleagues at The Gladstone Institute, UCSF and Harvard are already actively involved with iPierian, and I am delighted to join them in guiding iPierian’s industrialization of iPSC technology for drug discovery and development.”
Here is a link to the iPierian press release on the new CEO and a related story in the San Francisco Business Times.

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