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 »

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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  • JS

    Shooter…Cotsarelis was talking about the new study from stanford not follica, So don’t worry too much.

  • P

    Anything new? No? /cry

  • K

    Unfortunately, No.

    At times like these, I truly wish no time estimations would have ever been given out. Stating two to three or three to four years only incites the masses. There are so many who are awaiting this that to do so and then either fail or become mum is downright cruel.

    But, I guess that’s “business.”

  • JS

    So i’m not the only one checking everyday in the hope of there being a miraculous breakthrough,

    Even though there isn’t much news, There are small steps like the stanford article further up, So at the very least we are seeing that researchers are getting to grips with the problem of hairloss, And when you add all of these little things together it looks like there is a good chance of the breakthrough we are all waiting for happening sooner than we think.

  • Shooter

    JS, you definitely aren’t the only one. The only problem is there have been alot of little steps for the past 15 years and no miraculous breakthroughs to speak of… Sometimes I think articles like the Stanford one are written once yearly to appease the masses. UPenn in 07, Stanford in 08, maybe Harvard will publish some studies in 09… who knows.

  • K

    Boy, you just said a mouthful.

    You know, I see all these guys on these hairloss websites just hoping day after day … I really don’t want to be like that. The bottom line, if you want hair, the best thing I can see someone doing is getting a hair system. I know there is a lot of crap about them and no, they aren’t easy to wear or keep up, but if you want hair I see it as the best way to get it. Would I consider it? Most likely not.

    The other alternative is to accept baldness or shave your head and hope you can pull it off.

    I know there is propecia, rogain, HT’s and all that other stuff but it all has drawbacks and risks. Your hair may look great with a HT for a while, but you risk the chance later in life for it to all fall to hell. Of course, to have much success you need a DHT blocker and we all know the problem with those.

    It’s like a never ending circle of BS … and I think we all finally hit that wall sooner or later and forget about it. And let’s not even get into the fact that our vain society has planted the thought that baldness is something to be ashamed about into our minds.

    Remember, when you feel down about it, know you are NOT alone. So many men are going through this.

  • Mary81

    Men & Women are going trough this, Alopecia affects women too, It´s very hard to accept as a woman that you hair it´s thinning, but I do my weekly research, and every time that I read about great news or simply technology advances related with baldness it brings me hope, as the “R ” always positive comments.Women are too trying to deal with this.

  • R

    First, Technology is being brought forward by top universities and advocating new paths to end this disease. This shows that more than path can be taken to restore hair. Secondly, HT’s been done since the early 1900’s and have lasted a life time for people. There are drawbacks with any hair loss approach and I believe this is what fueling the advances in science. As money and peopl / need is on the forefront, someone will stop the path of failure and work to end this problem.

    On another note: HT’s, Hair systems, propecia, rogaine etc.. all can work extremely well and never deteted for a life time. You only hear the bad results or news people!!!! That is why when one breakthrough happens and 1 million positive results will be down graded by only 1 failure. Hair loss forums are full of nay-sayers that if they trully believed their words would have left the forums long ago.

    Wait and witness today how many breakthroughs and knowledge is being made about hair loss as well as other diseases. You heard of ACELL, maybe someone will try their powder later this year or early next year? Remember that “Train Wrecks” are always on the front page of discussion but not the million of positive results with HT’s and the other hair loss aides. I believe people should just wait before attempting anything other than medicine due to the new knowledge and breakthroughs today.

    Second note: Everyone here is LUCKY! Yes Lucky! You have the Internet and knowledgeable people that are working to educate you daily. If the Internet did not exist, you would not be so smart about hair loss or aides and would partaked on many of the medicines, HT’s etc… and maybe liked the results? Stop assuming and look forward. Shave your head short and wait!

  • D

    Acell is already being tested by some hair transplant doctors, one of them Robert Jones in Toronto. So we should know the results very soon, maybe at most 2-3 months.

  • r1ch

    hey D, do you know where the finding will b published or posted?

  • D
  • JS

    D…Thanks for the link, What i found really interesting on that board was the thread about the stanford study that we were talking about earlier on here. I didn’t notice reading the study before but they triggered hair growth using Laminin 511/521,Which is an extracellular matrix protein, Like Acell.

  • rev


    Don’t take my word for it…. just follow the bread crumbs. We know that the Follica trials will be conducted via the Harvard Department of Dermatology. We also have a brand new newsletter from Harvard Health Publications discussing hair treatments.(http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/543239/). It’s safe to assume that some folks at Harvard would be privy to something regarding the Follica process, so that’s why I find this line VERY interesting:

    “One potential method involves using an abrasive gel to gently damage the skin and then topical cream to switch on the follicle-generating genes”

    I can’t think of anyone else approaching hairloss treatments in this manor except Follica (damage the skin/ trick it to regenerate as a follicle instead). If that line hints to the Follica process let’s wish them all the best with their trial because this concept shows great potential for super-quick market penetration (once trials are complete of course).

  • P

    That article mentions hair transplants like the only downfall is cost… I really hope Follica’s approach doesn’t see hair transplants as the goal, because I really wouldn’t be satisfied with hair transplant results (no offense to the guys with them, but I’m sure even they would agree that they want something more)

    Also, question as far as growth is concerned: assuming this works at all, would dermabrasion + the topical grow hair on places where there was no hair before? Or would the body properly take care of that itself? If it grows hair everywhere, then there will be some artistry in things like the hairline (just like transplants) and could really hinder this sort of thing. Any thoughts on that?

  • R

    The growth process will be known before being released and will allow doctors to evaluate and frame the face as the same way as HT’s. Don’t worry, everyones face and hair level / framing factor will be an individual circumstance and the formula will most likely wake up the sleepers. So this should of little concern. All you need is to draw the border for the Follica treatment and allow the hair to grow. Doctors have a placement marker that takes into account the patients face – nose – forehead ratio before doing these procedures. The time is coming and scientist are discovering hair loss triggers and biological processes that will afford multiple treatments depending on the severity and pattern. The Acell Matris being utilized by HT Doctors if it works will end this due to the regenrative process of the matrix and solution. Even though you need wounding, I believe they will discover a simple solution that just requires a topical application to awake the follicles. It will be soon!

  • r1ch

    it maybe soon
    if everything that cures hairloss in mice cured hairloss in humans baldness wud have been cured years ago :x

  • R

    Listen to yourself and explain your reasoning and back this with the current breakthroughs today compared to just 8 years ago. This breakthrough and the others that have followed is unprecedented and shows the speed and accuracy of science like no other in history. I will say that skeptical is warranted based on past breakthroughs, but the Internet is exposing fraudulant practices and claims over night. Who uses Revita Shampoo???? This product would have been on the main market for years if it was not for the Internet exposing the Bull!!

    Look, I am not trying to sound mean or disrespectful, I know your pain that is why I am here as well people. But, let s not see past failures as indicators of todays or future breakthroughs. This is a different scientific community and the information is being shared and gathered through this medium. Whoever fails at this Follica etc… will see others make it happen and reap the awards. Sorry, but I need to keep this forum real and like the others. Stop looking the past and see the potential future! It looks very promising. ACELL is here today and we will see outstanding results due to the hair follicle is there and just sleeping. Waking it up may be easy with just the right substance and many pharma and natural compounds are being studied and projected to wake up the follicles within a few years or sooner.

  • JS

    R…. You have mentioned earlier on this board the research that is being done with regards to the role Fungus could be playing with hairloss, I was wondering if you saw this video from one of Dr Mercolas newsletters,

    Now if fungus is one of the main causes of hairloss then surely it wouldn’t be difficult for some Dr somewhere to find a way to administer the same kind of treatment used for cancer on this video. Do you or anyone else on this board know if something like this has been tried. Is it possible to reach the follicle to use this idea.

  • r1ch

    hmm ‘keeping this forum real’ or over optermistic? dont get me wrong i like your enthusiams but id rather be slightly skeptical and not get my hopes up to high until there is some good data back on trials in humans rather than be overly optimistic until bad data comes back.
    dont forget ICX was heavily based on science, and the scientists there all had backgrounds jsut as good as follica’s and look how that turned out, that was pretty recent too.
    im still gona b optimistic and say baldness will be cured in this decade and follica will produce hair regrowth but weather its gona fully restore hair and be in out the next 2-4 years is absolutley impossible to say

  • P

    Hey R,

    Would you mind checking out this website (http://www.hairloss-research.org/ProtocolMen08.html) and letting me know what you think of those products?

    Is it safe to take several of these supplements at the same time? I have already ordered the following…

    Soy/Cayenne Combination
    L-Taurine/Green Tea/Zinc

    and I am on Propecia.

  • R

    This is what I ues including Propecia without the side effects. Actually, Curcumi will stop the side effects of Propecia and safety is recognized by you need to monitor your body’s response.

    People…This link is where the studies on both pharma and natural protocols with studies are located.


    Also, ICX is represented by Bosley and this organization ….Bosely is suspect always!

  • D

    There is a new story about the Stanford study, saying that it could be available for humans in two years. Also, some have noted that Acell contains Laminin 511 (the protein Stanford investigated).
    Interesting stuff going on, let’s pray it turns out to positive news.

  • Haircoach


    what about Kevin Bitterman, recently joined with Follica?


  • K

    Oh great, just what the MPB community needs, yet ANOTHER 2 year prediction.

    Can’t these researchers make funding by being truthful?!

  • R

    Please provide the Stanford link D! I would like to read that article. Also, two-years is a prediction from where scientist are today. If you look at what was done prior to that prediction, you would see at least ten years or more of research in the same area. We are just in clinical and product area of research. So, the 2 – 7 years prediction time frame is post (majority of bilogical, genetic and phisiological ) research. Thanks D!

    P.S. Any addition of high-end researchers signifies a greater platform from which to investigate multiple roles as well as help solidify the current research in the quickest possible fashion. This represents a need to complete this with success due to emerging competition learning and jumping on Follicas breakthrough! Or why waste the money and talent!!!

  • JS

    R….. I hope your right, It is sounding promising. Especially the fact that there seems to be competition arising more and more.

  • D

    I don’t have access to the original article, but a user at hairsite.com posted it, he got hold of the article. Here it is:


  • Haircoach
  • Haircoach

    People, after I have posted here that Kevin Bittermann from Polaris Ventures joined recently in Follica, he is deleted from list of Board and Executive Team in Follica Website. It is very strange…

  • Haircoach

    There is something under…

  • Haircoach
  • Haircoach

    Too Sarah Millar has deleted from Scientific Board in website from Follica.
    It is very very very strange!!!!

  • D

    I hope it doesn’t mean the trials they are doing now are failing :( I hope they are not seeing processes they have no clue about…

  • mirage

    yep , its all over!
    all the tests are failing. wait for the next best thing! lol

  • Shooter

    Ok, that is really wierd. Does anyone have more information about this? Kinda getting scared…

  • R

    People, this could mean many things and the trials have just begun and or just recruited participants. The program is moving forward and the two-scientist were probably having their bio updated and or moved to another area of the firm for support and or removed altogether. My advice before spreading mass panic is to send Follica an e-mail about the scientist(s) disapperance. Also, there is a man NW7 that is using Follicas technique and showing regrowth BTW…..NW7 is the worst form of hair loss and he had this pattern for over 25 years and now regrowing hair. Stay calm and contact Follica!

  • P

    So irritating that they haven’t said a damn thing in months.

  • R

    Follica does not owe anyone here any explanation other than the following statement below. They are working towards a disease that they trully don’t have to pursue so we need to be patient. They are publically traded and news can be found in journals etc… about their investments and moves!!! I will say that this takes time and Nobody should put a time table on anything that they themselves do not have any scientific knowledge or clue about the severity of performing this procedure correctly. Please wait!!!!

    Also, people are self-experimenting with success so why would this fail if jackasses are needling themselves and regrowing hair in areas that were slick bald for over 25 – 30 years? It shows it works. We just wait and or you self mutilate people!! See follicas response below!

    Thanks for your interest in Follica.

    Our publically shared information can be found on our website. We are
    committed to driving this technology forward and are enthusiastic about
    the potential. With that said, developing a new treatment takes time and
    we appreciate your patience as we progress in a diligent manner.

    Your support is very important to us and encourages us to move forward
    as quickly as possible.


    The Follica Team

  • ha

    hey R i think you are a part of folicas team, whos role is to keep people believing in there creation lol, if not … you should be haha!

    im just saying that its always good to hear your optimistic posts.


  • R

    Thank you! Smile!!! I found the lost Kevin Bitterman….http://www.solacepharma.com/content/board-of-directors/

    He was moved to another position and part of Solacepharma, remember they are all tied together and share resources. They are going after multiple Dermatological Diseases so they are building a large network of experts that share ideas and resources to speed up research, trials and drugs. There leverage is greater against the competition.

    As for Sarah Millar, she thought Thymuskin was the next best thing and was probably fired for whatever the reason. She is classified as missing in action until further notice!

    P.S. Man you guys and gals keep me on my toes to maintain the peace here! Relax and think before assumption or you will be transferred to the Hairstite website!! Smile!!!

  • Shooter

    “Relax and think before assumption or you will be transferred to the Hairsite website!!” Lol, you kill me R. I hope you’re right about everything.

  • G

    R, can you explain this Sarah Miller & Thymuskin link? why did she think thymuskin is the next big thing? are there any studies for thymus?

  • rev

    Follica raises $11million in 2nd round of venture financing

    Follica Inc., a Boston company working on developing treatments for hair loss and other “hair follicle disorders,” raised $11 million in its second round of venture capital. Investors included Polaris Venture Partners, Interwest Partners, and PureTech Ventures. The company, which raised $5.5 million in January, currently has four full-time employees. (Todd Wallack)




  • haircoach
  • haircoach
  • R

    Now we see reality and we need to stop freaking out without knowledge. Secondly, didn’t I say that Bitterman was probably being utilized as a go-between to suport Follica with Solacepharma!!!! Listen to me and smile, we are near the end! If lay-people can achieve results in the bathroom then why not skilled practioners with million dollar researchers and equipment? Research and ask questions before ever attempting to solve the puzzle. Enjoy the new found news people!!

  • jordan

    so with all this money being pumped in they should be closer to the 2 year mark not the 3 -4 years??

  • KKwilliams

    2 years is a fantasy time line period! 4-5 is still being very optimistic but it is a lot more realistic as it allows for the inevitable problems to occur and be overcome.

    just because they got more funding doesn’t mean s h i t. obviously funding is great! BUT either the science is solid and the treatment will work or it doesn’t and NO amount of money will change that.

    hoping a real treatment will be here by 2010 is just lying to yourself and many guys will make rush decisions based on that prediction. we all need to accept that it may be 20 years away and make good decisions based on that. my 2c

  • rev

    Guessing games are fun; let me try. I predict we’ll have a cure for hairloss in 209 years. It will come from our alien overlord xenu, and it will give everyone a lush rainbow afro. The day will be overcast with a 70% probability of precipitation. Barrack Obama’s clone will declare war on the Bush clones inhabiting Mars.

    The truth is NOBODY knows if we’ll ever see a cure for hairloss, but I can tell you it won’t take 20 years for us to find out if Follica works, so I say let Follica’s scientists deal with the proof-of-concept; if established, let their executive team deal with the regulatory process, and marketing.

    The hairloss market is far too profitable to squander over 20 years of inaction.

  • jordan

    im sticking to 2 – 3 years, everything is falling in place!