After months of searching for a suitable chief executive, local biotechnology startup Fate Therapeutics has found its match in Southern...

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After months of searching for a suitable chief executive, local biotechnology startup Fate Therapeutics has found its match in Southern California and will move its headquarters there.

The stem-cell-research company, launched with a splash in November, has named Paul Grayson, a veteran biotech executive and venture capitalist based in San Diego, as its new CEO.

Grayson said he has “great familiarity” with the biotech infrastructure of San Diego so the headquarters will be there, but it will maintain research operations here. It will work with Seattle-area nonprofit research centers such as the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as well as with researchers in Boston and the San Francisco area, he said.

Fate is applying for a grant with the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund, which distributes money from the tobacco settlement to life-science projects.

“We’ll definitely add to our local presence in Seattle,” said Grayson. Getting the grant “would be a great incentive,” he added.

Fate hopes to develop drugs that cause dormant adult stem cells to rebuild damaged tissue, as well as drugs that reprogram mature adult cells into stem cells that can repair ailing organs.

Some day such therapies could help treat Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as repair tissue after heart attacks, infections or transplants.

The company’s founders include Randall Moon, a stem-cell expert at the UW; scientists from Stanford University, the Scripps Research Institute and Harvard University; and Alex Rives, of ARCH Venture Partners.

Fate has raised about $15 million from ARCH, Polaris Venture Partners, OVP Ventures and others, and hopes to move its stem-cell research into clinical studies in the next 18 to 24 months.

The company’s choice of a San Diego-based executive underscores how hard it is for some local startups to attract top-flight management talent to this area.

The local biotech industry has scored few blockbusters of the type that spawn experienced executives.

Some firms have been able to recruit from elsewhere, though: Cell Therapeutics recently named Craig W. Philips, a former general manager of Bayer Healthcare Oncology, as its new president.

Before joining Fate, Grayson was managing director for five years at Sanderling Ventures, a San Diego venture-capital firm.

Before that, he was the CEO of biotech firm Senomyx, now a public company, and helped lead other companies.

Fate employs about six people. Grayson doesn’t expect the number to surpass 30 within the next year, because Fate will draw on its academic relationships to advance its work.

“You can do a tremendous amount of science with the right collaboration agreements,” he said.

Ángel González: 206-515-5644 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com