Gone Today, Hair Tomorrow—Follica Raises Funds to Begin Human Trial of Baldness Treatment

Call it a hair-raising event. Follica, a Boston startup out to develop novel ways of treating and even curing baldness and other hair-follicle disorders, today announced it had completed a $5.5 million Series A financing round. The round was led by Interwest Partners of Dallas and Menlo Park, CA, and joined by founding investor PureTech Ventures, in whose offices Follica is currently housed.

Follica was founded in late 2006 by PureTech and a group of leading academics who include Harvard Medical School dermatologist Rox Anderson, University of Pennsylvania stem cell biologist George Cotsarelis, and Vera Price, director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Hair Research Center. Its primary initial focus is an extremely common form of hair loss called androgenic alopecia—aka male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness.

Follica has targeted a, shall we say, growth industry. According to PureTech’s website, treatments for conditions of the follicle—chief among them hair loss, acne, and pigmentation issues—represent a $10 billion-plus annual market. It’s all part of the even broader category of “aesthetic medicine,” which also includes things like plastic surgery and many obesity treatments. And it is really in the recognition of the potential of aesthetic medicine that the, um, roots of Follica’s story lie.

Daphne Zohar, PureTech’s founder and managing partner (and an Xconomist), says the firm began thinking seriously about aesthetic medicine in early 2006. “There’s huge markets, and most of the technologies and things that are out there don’t come from real academic science,” she says. “A lot of them are this late-night infomercial type of thing.” But the market potential is undeniable, and it wasn’t lost on Zohar that people pay out of pocket for aesthetic treatments, meaning no health insurance reimbursement issues for manufacturers to contend with.

PureTech put together a team of expert advisors to begin looking at different aspects of aesthetic medicine. Their survey spanned everything from skin rejuvenation approaches to fat melting techniques, perhaps more than 100 different ideas in all, Zohar says. “As we were looking, we noticed the most interesting things … Next Page »

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Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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