In this, the penultimate in our series of articles taking a look at the worldwide efforts to produce a hair loss cure, we take a closer look at the work of RepliCell and their huge partner in Asia, Shiseido.
Back in 2003 a couple of European researchers, Kevin McElwee PhD and Rolf Hoffman MD, published the results of their work studying the cell biology of the hair follicle. Since then they have grown a lean business that leads development through a network of established partners. That lean structure leaves them free to focus their energies on ongoing research, the quality of that research has led them into partnership with some serious players around the world but particularly in Asia, where their relationship with Shiseido, signed in 2013, is of special interest to us… with its focus on a new hair loss treatment.
While many of the companies we have been looking at are young biotechs that you are unlikely to have heard of, unless like us you spend ridiculous amounts of time trawling newsfeeds for anything hair loss related. Shiseido is different. For a start they were founded in 1872, which makes them by some distance the oldest company on our list. While they are more readily associated with being a skincare company, they have obviously recognized the merging of skincare and hair loss treatments through the development of several topical approaches to the problem. The 2013 deal with RepliCel saw Shiseido sign an exclusive license, covering the whole of the Asian market, to work on RepliCel’s product RCH-01. Shiseido is carrying out it’s own, separate work on taking the treatment through trial.
RCH-01 is described as an autologous cell therapy making use of dermal sheath “cup cells.” Follicles are taken from the patient using a small punch biopsy, from the back of the scalp where, as transplant surgeons have taught us for decades, the hair is immune from the ravages of hair loss. The cup cells are first separated from the follicle and then replicated in the lab. The plan is to take the genetic benefits of that immunity and bring those traits to existing follicles in the region affected by hair loss.
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Though there are undoubtedly some huge technical challenges to bringing this to market we are encouraged, once again, by the gravity of the firms involved. RepliCel has built an interesting business based purely on really smart research results… testified to by the quality of partner they have acquired. The fact that the list of partners includes Shiseido gives further weight to the story, one that we hope runs and runs. Again, the delivery method suggests that you will find yourself in a surgical suite being treated by a surgeon.., so the cost will surely be a block for many potential clients. But the cost has a way of coming down over time and we will continue to monitor their progress closely.
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