Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has acquired iPierian, the companies said today, in an up-to-$725 million deal that bolsters the buyer’s neurodegenerative drug pipeline with treatments designed to fight tau proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease and several disorders in the human brain.

The deal gives BMS full rights to iPierian’s lead asset IPN007, a preclinical anti-Tau antibody set to start Phase I trials early next year. While the companies today emphasized IPN007’s promise for treating tauopathies that include progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), iPierian has promoted the antibody as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s as well as Frontotemporal dementia, an Alzheimer’s-like disorder in which patients often display strong behavioral changes and/or movement disorders with memory loss advancing later in the disease progression.

BMS said it acquired all of iPierian’s issued and outstanding shares of capital stock and all common stock equivalents for $175 million cash upfront, with the potential for up to $550 million in payments tied to development and regulatory milestones, and future royalties on net sales. BMS will take a $175 million charge during the second quarter of 2014 to reflect the iPierian acquisition.

“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,” Francis Cuss, BMS’ evp and CSO, said in a statement. “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.”

Neuroscience is one of BMS’ six therapeutic focus areas. The other five are cardiovascular, immunoscience, metabolics, oncology, and virology.

BMS acquired iPierian seven months after iPierian’s CEO, Nancy E. Stagliano, Ph.D., spun out from iPierian True North Therapeutics, focused on treatments for orphan diseases, with both companies run by the same executives. When the spinout was announced back in September, iPierian won $30 million in financing toward creating True North as well as funding clinical development of IPN007, with the stated goal of filing an IND for the compound with the FDA this year. The financing was co-led by SR One, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and MPM Capital, with participation from all existing iPierian investors.

Established in 2007, iPierian began as a stem-cell company that succeeded in raising millions from investors; Google Ventures led a $22 million series B equity financing round back in 2010. iPierian has used its induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform to discover a new form of extracellular Tau, called eTau, consisting of secreted Tau fragments that are present in the extracellular environment.

IPN007 is designed to slow the spread of Tau throughout the brain and therefore inhibit the progression of Alzheimer’s amnd other neurodegenerative diseases.

BMS isn’t the only company looking at tau proteins as a potential neurodegenerative treatment. Last year, for example, Eli Lilly acquired from Siemens Medical Solutions USA two investigational positron emission tomography (PET) tracers, both intended to image tau (or neurofibrillary) tangles in the brain, one of two known hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. The value of that deal was not disclosed.

iPierian marks the third company with which BMS has pulled off a deal in recent months. In March, BMS launched an up-to-$350 million collaboration to use Five Prime Therapeutics’ target protein discovery platform toward developing and commercializing new immuno-oncology therapies for two undisclosed immune checkpoint pathways.

And in December, BMS generated more cash for deals by completing the sale of its global diabetes business to its collaboration partner AstraZeneca, in a transaction that netted the company $3.3 billion during the first quarter—$2.7 billion upfront, plus a $600 million milestone payment after AstraZeneca won FDA approval for Farxiga™ (dapagliflozin).

BMS disclosed the closing of the AstraZeneca deal today in releasing first-quarter results. BMS reported net earnings attributable to the company of net $937 million, up from $609 million a year earlier, despite a 1% dip in revenue to $3.8 billion. Excluding the recently sold diabetes business, global revenues increased 5% to $3.6 billion, BMS said.

Previous articleStem Cell Breakthroughs Renew Old Cloning Fears
Next articleMorphoSys, Temple’s Moulder Center Make Antibody Therapeutics Deal