There's nothing like a little talk of a fountain of youth to get investors excited about a developmental-stage drug company, but Sirtris Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: SIRT) CEO Christoph Westphal stayed on topic at this year's JPMorgan Health Care Conference, which featured the company's diabetes program.

The company's lead compound, SRT501, is a reformulation of resveratrol, which is found in red wine. The compound activates a protein which is also activated by dieting and exercise and is expected to stabilize glucose levels -- thus the connection to diabetes.

In connection with the conference, Sirtris released data for its once-a-day phase 1b trial. There were no safety issues, and there was even a hint that the drug might be working. Since phase 1 trials are small -- and primarily focused on safety -- a hint was about the best the company could hope for.

Sirtris will be releasing safety data from a twice-a-day trial in the first half of the year, but the first real hint of whether the drug works will come in the form of phase 2a data set to be released in the second half of the year. In that study, the drug will be tested in combination with the standard of care, metformin, the generic form of Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY) Glucophage. Being an oral compound, SRT501 could compete well against other metformin add-on therapies like Amylin Pharmaceuticals' (Nasdaq: AMLN) BYETTA, which has to be injected.

The good news for Sirtris is that even if SRT501 doesn't prove effective in phase 2 trials, the company has backup compounds available that are more potent in the laboratory. In mice, one of the compounds looks at least as good as Merck's (NYSE: MRK) Januvia.

I'm a little more excited about Sirtris than I was the last time I wrote about it. The stock price has come down and we've got more information about the potential for its lead drug, but investors should remember that there's still plenty of time to jump in. With no phase 2 data in yet, Sirtris is still a risky investment.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.