New MS Therapy Company, Pipeline, to Focus on Rejuvenating Coating That Protects Nerve Cells

Jose Marques Lopes, PhD avatar

by Jose Marques Lopes, PhD |

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A new company called Pipeline Therapeutics will focus on developing next-generation therapies for regenerating the key nerve-protection process that is damaged in multiple sclerosis.

Roche, Inception Sciences, and the venture capital firm Versant Ventures laid the groundwork for Pipeline by establishing a partnership in June 2014 that formed the Inception 5 program. Its goal was to develop therapies for remyelination — the process of repairing the myelin coating that protects nerve fibers. Myelin damage is a hallmark of MS.

The early promise of the remyelination therapy development program has led to Pipeline Therapeutics being formed to take over the Inception 5 effort.

Versant supported Inception 5 with financing. Roche provided research funding in exchange for an option to acquire a therapy program that could achieve investigational new drug status. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration awards the status so that companies can market an experimental therapy across state lines.

In the past 3 1/2 years, Inception scientists have translated findings made at the University of California, San Francisco medical center into a clinical trial program for MS.

“It is gratifying to see another successful outcome within Versant’s Discovery Engine network,” Brad Bolzon, the managing director and chair of Versant’s investment team, said in a press release.

“We continue to leverage collaborative business models with pharma partners, especially in emerging fields such as this. We thank Roche for their confidence in the potential of our partnership to produce an entirely new class of therapeutics for [MS] and other demyelinating diseases,” Bolzon said.

“Our Inception scientists once again demonstrated their ability to effectively translate foundational academic discoveries into high-quality drug candidates,” said Peppi Prasit, Inception’s CEO. “This achievement resulted from access to cutting-edge academic research, a proven team of drug hunters with domain expertise, and support from our venture capital and pharma partners.”

Pipeline Therapeutics will be led by the same team that started the Inception 5 program but will have a larger network of academic founders. Brian Stearns and Daniel Lorrain co-led Inception 5. Stearns will be Pipeline’s chief operations officer and Lorrain its chief scientific officer. Clare Ozawa, Versant’s managing director, will be in charge of Pipeline’s formation, financing and launch.

“We are very excited to announce the creation of Pipeline Therapeutics, and look forward to pursuing other therapeutic approaches that can promote functional recovery in neurological diseases,” Stearns said.

“Based on the continued progress in the field, we are now positioned to pursue drug candidates that invoke the natural repair processes in several nervous system cell types,” Ozama said. “We aim to create the leading company in the field and to build a portfolio of therapies for several neurodegenerative disorders that currently lack effective treatments.”


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