We started our tour of young pharmaceutical companies, developing new hair loss treatments, with a look at the work of Rivertown. Today we look at the second firm on our list, Follica, with their own unique slant on hair loss prevention and cure.
We will see, later in our search, businesses that have been developed with less cash but Follica are one of the lower funded outfits on the hunt for the cure to hair loss. To date, since they were founded in 2005, Follica has raised $24.1M and none at all since 2010. We are taking the benevolent view that this lack of cash-raising is due to some commercial success with products already on the market. Today, they are part of a larger group operating under the PureTech Health banner, PureTech themselves are a pioneering pharma group developing therapeutics based on the biology interactions between the brain, the gut and the immune system.
The Follica Approach
Their website opens with a quote from the firm’s scientific co-founder, Dr. George Cotsarelis, Chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. “The dogma was that you were born with the total number of follicles that you were ever going to have. their loss was considered permanent. Now we know it is now.”
It is an ambitious statement, designed to turn the head of any hair loss sufferer but what is that claim based on? Well, Follica is using proprietary technology from the University of Pennsylvania which is based on using stem cells to trigger new growth. The public appetite for stem cell applications is seemingly limitless, as is the optimism for their potential to cure pretty much anything. The team at Follica have a process which starts with “disruption” of the scalp, which sounds painful and quite probably is. But it is a necessary evil since the cure lies in manipulating how the body reacts to that disruption. Follica tell us that cells migrate to the site of the disruption to make repairs and that on arrival they need to make a decision on whether to become skin cells or hair cells. They claim that at this point it is possible to push those cells towards deciding to become hair, we are told on their site “There is a window of opportunity in which we can potentially push them to chose the latter, and we believe there are multiple biological pathways to target to enhance this outcome.”
How It Works
Because the first step in the process is that painful sounding skin disruption, which creates the essential damage that triggers the arrival of the stem cells, the first appointment is with a trained medical professional. From there you switch to using a device at home which delivers “a range of compounds” on a daily basis. There is a smartphone app which makes sure you stay on plan, and reminds you when to order fresh compounds.
HIS Hair Clinic
Follica is certainly working in an interesting area. The implications of the gut on our wider health are only beginning to be understood, along with our ability to manipulate stem cells. Like others in the series, Follica is operating in an area that might well hold the key… we will continue to watch their progress closely to see how their product improves.
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