New Fundraising for Hair-Raising: Follica Takes in $11 Million for Baldness-Treatment Approach

If only hair could grow as fast as Follica’s pot of money. Just seven months after its $5.5 million Series A financing round, the Boston-based startup today announced it has raised an additional $11 million to bolster its efforts to develop new methods of treating male- and female-pattern baldness and other hair-follicle disorders such as excessive hair growth and acne. Follica, which confirmed a human pilot study of its hair-regeneration technique is underway, also added several new team members, including veteran life sciences and biotech executive G. Kirk Raab, former CEO of Genentech, who joined the company’s board as chairman.

The Series B round was led by Polaris Venture Partners of Waltham, MA (Polaris partner Kevin Bitterman also took a seat on the board), and joined by existing investors Interwest Partners of Dallas and Menlo Park, CA, (which led the Series A round); and founding investor PureTech Ventures, in whose offices Follica is headquartered.

Follica’s main initial focus is developing a treatment for the extremely common form of hair loss called androgenic alopecia—better known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. “This financing will enable us to build out the company and move well down the path towards [regulatory] approval,” says Daphne Zohar, managing director of PureTech Ventures (and an Xconomist). “Our research has been progressing in a very positive way. We have had significant interest from the venture community and while we just closed the Series A round a few months ago, and weren’t planning on bringing in more money for a couple of years, we recognize that additional funds enable us to move more quickly. We have worked with Polaris before and they have been a great partner to us which is why we accelerated the Series B round.” Zohar added that Follica is in the process of transitioning to its own office space, and that it already has independent lab space.

My story about Follica’s debut last January and its quest for a baldness cure sparked a long-running (440 comments and counting as of this writing) conversation among the startup’s would-be customers that’s still quite lively all these months later. This highlights the intense interest in—and vast potential market for—an effective treatment for hair loss. Follica, for its part, claims treatments for conditions of the follicle represent a $10 billion-plus annual market. As Zohar said of the general field of aesthetic medicine back in January: “There’s huge markets, and most of the technologies and things that are out there don’t come from real academic science. A lot of them are this late-night infomercial type of thing.”

Aiming to inject some credible science into the field, Follica was formed in late 2006 by PureTech and a roster of leading researchers that includes University of Pennsylvania stem cell biologist George Cotsarelis, Harvard Medical School dermatologist Rox Anderson, and Vera Price, director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Hair Research Center. As part of today’s announcement, Follica said it has bolstered this scientific firepower with the addition to its scientific advisory board of Samir Mitragotri, an expert in transdermal drug delivery at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

At the root of Follica’s approach to hair loss is Cotsarelis’s discovery (made after the company was formed) that when the skin’s uppermost layers are removed some cells within the wound revert to a more basic state from which they can develop into either skin or hair—and that he could actually direct cells in this “embryonic window” to form new hair follicles. Follica licensed that research and has since developed the work further and filed additional patents to protect the technology, the company has previously said.

As we described it back in January: “What’s so beautiful about the approach, [Zohar] says, is that translating it into a treatment for humans involves only devices and drugs that are already on the market. A doctor would first use a microdermabrasion tool, say, or a laser to remove the top layers of the skin—as is already commonly done in a number of dermatologic and cosmetic procedures—knocking some cells back into a primitive state. The doctor can then use this newly created therapeutic window to inject drugs that push the cells to develop along one pathway or another and grow hair or skin. Zohar won’t reveal what drugs Follica is using, except to say that they are small molecule drugs normally taken orally for purposes with no relation to hair growth.”

With the regulatory path relatively clear, Follica’s plan was to use its Series A money to quickly begin a small proof of concept study, involving 15 to 20 patients. Zohar yesterday confirmed that a pilot study is underway but wouldn’t confirm where or give any other details on its timing other than to tacitly stick to the timeline she laid out in January, when she said that final data from the study would not be available for at least a year. “Everything is progressing on track,” she now says. “We are moving as quickly as possible within the constraints of clinically driven medicine.”

Zohar also demurred when I asked about the reports in the reader comments on our story from January that the study only involves testing small patches of dermabrasion without administering any drugs to the wounds. In fact, she wouldn’t even confirm that the researchers were using dermabrasion to create the wounds in the first place. “At this point we are looking at the human response to disruption and the timing of the human ’embryonic window’ post disruption,” she said. “Disruption,” she added, “is not necessarily the same as dermabrasion.”

She declined further comment on the study.

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

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  • Artista

    Hey URGH! ~are you still around? Havent seen anything from you these days.

  • will

    how many years until some kind of permanent solution is at our fingertips damnit

  • Seaborn

    Just saw this on the local news here in L.A. I don’t know any more about it than whats in this article.

    Seems to be a treatment/finding for hairloss in women. Makes no mention of it doing anything for men, but perhaps the science will lead to something else.

  • J

    Im with will… many dammit!!!????

  • R

    Forum members,

    I would like everyone to try the natural way to combat hairloss due to underlying side effects of propecia and other pharma drugs. I have no stake in the MPB website and offer this with the benefits experienced by me and the others on this site. If you trully want to go the pharma route, you have been warned and if you are side effect free, Kudos to you, but others must be warned to avoid pharma drugs altogether due to unreported side effects.

    I state these words and post my comments due to giving a damn for your well-being. Those that challenge me, please provide your research and make sure it can be validated. This my challenge to those that seek to comment without a backbone or history to show due cause for such accusations. There are other forums for such comments where th IQ is probably 50.

  • AA

    I will post my results of the curcumin/resveratrol method once I’m 3 months in. It seems to be starting to work a little in thickening my existing hair and preventing massive fallout. Though, it might be my imagination. I’m not even at the two week mark yet. If an anti-inflammatory grows hair back I don’t see why this wouldn’t.

    The problem with natural herbal supplements is it takes a while before it starts affecting your body. At least that’s how things were using ginkgo biloba. Nothing for 3 months. You must be persistent.

  • Artista

    the first thing that comes to mind when speaking of using a natural approach to MPB is the overall effectiveness. Im not opposed to natural ‘remedies’ at all especially for younger men that are experiencing the onset. For those of us older men who have suffered greatly ,what great benefits could we possibly get aside from healthier looking remaining hairs? If natural remedies could ‘bring back’ hair im sure that the balding population of 40% would be in the low 20% to nonexisitant.
    Look forward to your feedback

  • JoJo

    hahahahahaha, you all should listen to the preacher ( R ) and go to that fuck*ing site, he knows what he says, his IQ is greater than 50 hahahhahahahhaha

  • R

    JoJo….Where are your scientific insights? And what contributions have you brought beyond adolescent behavior? You speak like a child w/o forethought of what is prevelant or factual and contribute nothing but profanity. Again, if you believed your own adolescent words, you would have left long ago. You need this site as it provides hope and real science beyond just written or spoken words.

    If you trully believe this is all hype then leave or contribute real science and research. What have you contributed thus far? I bet you you welcome my words as it soothes your soul to understand that hope and science are making headway with hairloss. Again whenever you or any one else wnat to challenge the scientific reaserch that counteracts my contributions and written words…bring it on!!! You see…people ( more than one) have used the herbal approach with results. You and the others may now launch the attack if you have the intelligence and balls to do so.

  • AA

    Artista has a great point. To those that have been suffering from hair loss for over 20 years and are NW5s, I’m afraid the natural approach isn’t going to make much of a difference.

    If I stop losing my hair and all my vellus get thick, I’m looking at a pretty good outcome or what might appear to be a head full of hair once I have a little shag going.

    I understand the frustration of others, but if these infantile comments are coming from people that have been suffering from hair loss for over 20 years, then what the hell have you done with your lives to be reacting like this. I’m 25 and I think you’re morons.

  • JoJo

    R : I’m here because I love your sermons, I almost need them now, this last one has been good, but you can do it better … something like : ” Science is growing and many researchers are now moving through barriers that were the status quo … ” … hahahahahha … that was fantastic, because nobody knew it, R, nobody, just you, the genius preacher.

  • R

    The hair follicle does not die…it is sleeping and that is why people with strong anti-inflammatory’s grow hair even after 50 years of hair loss. There are many approaches to hair loss and they are on the verge. Science has shown time and again that the follicle is alive and only needs a signal to start growing. This research was conducted and can researched by viewing Elaine Fuchs work.

  • R

    Arista… the MPB website has shown that people with significant hair loss have regrown hair by natural means. The total hair regrowth today is non-existent unless you use a strong anti-inflammatory drug whcih ahs regrwon hair but with dangerous side effects. This shows that a total regrowth (Ronald Regan) coverage even though you once had a horse shoe pattern. That is why I state that the follicle is alive but sleeping needing a boost. This was spoken by Follica and others but in detail by Elaine Fuchs.

  • Artista

    Hi R Yes i do know that the medical science research community has discovered that hair follicles long dormant due to MPB can be actually coaxed back into regrowth. The question is which application or treatment will finally be the ‘remedy’. It is far easier to believe that genetic manipulation will be the factor rather than natural methods. R, im not saying that the natural way cant do it but you know the old saying that if something sounds too good to be true.It would be great if a natural cure was possible.Do you have a link that i may be able to review?

  • R

    Arista..No natural remedy as of today, but close enough to stop and reverse some of the loss. This will buy you time.

  • Artista

    ZZ ,how is your avodart treatment coming along these days?

  • A

    You people are seriously handicapped.

    FACT – If herbs regrew hair then Propecia wouldn’t exist.

    FACT – If herbs regrew hair then people wouldn’t have bothered to create Finasteride or Minoxidil.

    FACT – if it worked there wouldn’t be a need to find a cure for baldness.

    P.s you show me the studies that say 5000 people who did a propecia trial was over 6ft tall.

  • bill123

    why is everyone talking about propecia, minox, herbs.?? sure all of them work to an extent but they wont gve you your teenage hair back, isnt this forum meant for future research and development. theres a million other places were you can talk about propecia minox laser comb herbs dinosaurs w/e?? most of us come here to read about breakthroughs.. not propecia

  • Artista

    Speaking for myself, i am biding my time til the Intercytex phase2 results are in(maybe the breakthrough you speak of).Im also open to reading up on other things. As an observer it seems that ‘A’ is amusing himself by trying to aggrevate and insult others here,especially R. Just ignore the immaturity everyone else is.

  • ZZ


    Upgrading from propecia, avodart does not seem to have slowed down the loss. For me propecia did work well for a long time and then just wore out. I have personally never had any side effects on either. I thought spiro was starting to work but no longer feel it has had much of an effect.

    I went for PRP and am only 3 weeks in. I will keep you posted on that. I told them that my goal was to halt any further loss and would treat anything more as a bonus. I did not feel I was oversold on any aspect of the treatment and did not get the impression that this is a money grab. In fact, I got just the opposite impression as Greco is training many other docs to administer the treatment.

    Looking forward to Histogen’s clinical trial results that I estimate could come as early as the end of this week.

  • Artista

    Wow..hey ZZ,thanks for the reply. Im glad that someone HERE has recieved the PRP treatment. Yes please keep me and all else updated. There is someone on one of those HL blogsites that is also posting his progress by updated home pics. I may take a flight out to Fla from Chicago if you guys have favorable results.

  • R

    For those that think propecia and minoxidal was at first created for hairloss…please research and correct your error. Hair loss drugs as listed were side effects of other treatments (i.e prostate and heart problems). Secondly..if you want to prove me wrong provide evidence of contrary. No drug or hebal approach is 100% effective and each body reacts differently to the said substances. Ask any human / drug researcher and you will be told that a standard approach to drug research is an individual 6’ft 200 lbs. The doses are then reduced or raised for a specfic target audience to ensure the proper..good results driven dose w/o the side effects. Unfortuantley, they spend more money on marketing then on real science hence the mediorce hair loss drugs and treatments.

    BTW…Herbs are the main pathways to pharma drugs.

  • A

    * R
    8/22/08 9:54 pm

    News…Drugs don’t lose potency with hair loss… your hair loss progresses beyond the drugs capability. So it is best to tackle hair loss from muliple levels and areas. I have stoppped propecia for several years and came back to it with the same good results. This shows that again, comments from people are only individual experiences and not the majority. You will hear many negative responses from Follica due to incompetent application, bad reaction to one of the ingredients etc…. So we must keep our perspective and this is why I want multiple companies and different treatments due to not everyone may be able to take some of the procedures due to side effects. Multiple choices should be available.

    See this string that helped me tackle hair loss to an all new level.

    Even defending the drug that you claim is evil, gosh R you are awesome telling people that something that gave you results is shit. LOL. Like to see your response to this.

  • G

    Follica Gets New CEO, Gears Up for More (Hair and Business) Growth. See link for more details:

  • R

    I provide any information and show the good and bad to drugs and natural supplements. I will even state that the natural way has potential side effects. That comment was to defend a blanket statement as I remember. Also…I provided a natural alternative with research and side eefects as well as lower doses and its baility to have the same effect to reduce side eeffects. Your contribution thus far?

  • R
  • Metsie

    From R’s previous post
    “Dr. Ju played an important role in successfully leading and building the company from a discovery organization into a late-phase clinical and early-stage commercialization company.” Sounds like they are gearing up for something. Anyway, Follica is alive and kicking.

  • Sam

    Just wanted to report on the a&g hair complex as I promised. So far it has been 1 week since my last application, it is recommended to wait 10-15 weeks for best results. I have had some shedding (only at the time of application) but dr AQ says that is normal, I have seen some growth on my temples wich is promising, my vertex looks thinner because of the shed, some growth on hair line, I seem to not lose my hair in the shower or when I rub my scalp. It is early for any conclusions but so far I believe it is a great tool to maintain your hair after reaching a desired level of growth with finasteride and minox. FYI I stopped minix, no finasteride for a year, deffuse thiner with norwood 2 scale . Thanks guys I will post later please do the same

  • ZZ
  • SB

    “Dr. Ju played an important role in successfully leading and building the company from a discovery organization into a late-phase clinical and early-stage commercialization company.”

    Yeah, they’re only “3 to 5 years away” from taking it to the next level!


    Sorry, to be pessimistic, but I’ll believe it when I see it – for real, rather than, once again, nothing but “speculation.”

  • Kkwilliams

    I have to chime in and say that I know we all want a cure asap…but Anyone pinning their hopes on a 1-2 year cure is setting themselves up for heartache.

    The 5 year cure timeline continues to appear because its far enough into the future that no one really remembers or holds a company to that time frame. as people we view 5 years as a long time away and for sure something will come about by then.

    The truth is however that 5 years in scientific terms with all the red tape and testing is the blink of an eye.

    On a positive note science is at a MUCH!! Better point in beginning to unravel genetics and stem cell research then in the 80’s 100 times over. We may not be at the point of a cure but we are at the start of understanding and exploring scientific techniques that one day might lead to a cure.

    I believe that 5 years is being optimistic and 10 years is a plausible time line for a cure.

    Truth be told, I have begun looking for careers that will allow me to wear a hat!! sad to say but that’s the legit truth. I pray for a cure within 10 years but have given in to given in to the reality that my ideal career and life may have to be given up because of the real possibility(like generations before me) that my age group(mid 20’s) may not see the cure in time :(

    Those are my honest thoughts so don’t attack me :)

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  • commonsense

    well….and dont bite my head off people, but I believe a cure/new treatment will be in our grasps within the next 5 years!

    Any company reaching into the stages of development, University students predicting new and exciting treatments and the constantly improving DIY methods. (ooh the list goes on by the way)

    these make my prediction perfectly resonable.

  • toppedout

    where is everyone posting comments

  • Stranger


    Anybody posting here still.. if there is new link , please pass that info..
    Can you help a depressed candidate who tried to end his life because of baldness.. Just some encouraging words as we all hope by end of Q3 2009 ( this year ) cure will be in place..

    I’m being optimistic.. I was pessimistic few years before , but the way things are going I can be sure a cure will be in place as expected..

    No one is knowing whats happening with Follica , as they are the only hope since ICX methodology didn’t yield desired result..

  • Robert

    Cotsarelis gave an interview to a Philly newspaper this past Jan saying that it will be yet another 5 years. Follica seems to be the most promising of all the research. I understand its tough to predict when a product will come to market, but why is it that every year I hear its going to be 5 years, then the next year I hear its going to be another 5 years, then another 5 years, then another……
    Ive been hearing that with practically every company doing research on this for the past 10 years since I was 31. Id just like to get some sort of ballpark idea of when this will actually, really hit market! If Im going to be 51 when it comes out, I’ll just go for the transplant now instead- Id just like to know so I can make an informed decision as to what to do. I feel like we’re always getting the run around- I feel like a hairless mouse chasing a piece of cheese on a string.

  • Hi everyone! I recently stumbled across an article that I thought was really encouraging for people going thru the same stuff like us. I can’t remember exactly what the article was but the name of the site is I think it’s sort of new but they had a really encouraging article and video about a 26 yr old lady who was experiencing a lot of hair loss and didn’t know how to stop it. The encouragement and hope she received was really upbuilding. I just thought I’d share!

  • will

    stranger, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but are you serious? You’re going to kill yourself over balding, wow we are spoiled. There are people who can’t walk, don’t have sight. Are you that self absorbed, after a post like that I suggest you dedicate your life doing good things for now on, you sound so spoiled. Ending your life because of baldness. Maybe it’s a good thing you’re not finding a mate, don’t have kids with a weak mentality like that. Maybe you’ll have kids and they’ll want to kill themselves over a mole on their chin. And for your selfish information ofcourse there will be a cure soon, they’re are growing organs where you don’t need immune suppressant drugs, because your body won’t reject it. How could they not be on the verge of a cure, be realistic. It may not be right away, but deal with it!

  • baldness is a problem if you take it as a problem but there are so many balding people who are happy and very successful in life. So keep yourself busy and just try to enjoy the life. Don’t think about killing yourself…

  • Alisha

    Now their are so many medications available which can help regrowing hair, so not to worry this one is one such. There are also laser treatments which can help in this regard find more