A Very Brief Follica Update for Our Loyal Readers

1/22/10Follow @bbuderi

Ever since it announced its $5.5 million Series A funding round in January 2008, we have covered the news of Follica, the Boston area startup out to bring a scientific approach to developing novel ways of treating and, perhaps one day even curing, baldness and other hair-follicle disorders. These stories, including news of Follica’s $11 million Series B round in August 2008, and the hiring of a new CEO last spring, have attracted a tremendous readership, and indeed have drawn several thousand comments, as fans and followers of Follica have become some of our most treasured readers.

But to the dismay of many of those readers, who are anxious for the latest from the startup, we have had nothing to report since the hiring of CEO William Ju last May. Several of you have written to me personally to ask if there is any way I might coax more news out of the company.

I have been trying, I assure you, and this week I had a modicum of success. Though I couldn’t get anything on the record from a Follica official, sources at the company confirmed that “we are very excited about the progress and are pushing forward with our programs. Everything is going very well and management, the board, and the Scientific Advisory Board are all extremely encouraged by our scientific progress and results.”

I also learned that the company has made some recent hires to expand its staff, though my sources wouldn’t name names or specify how many people have been hired or what roles they are filling.

Lots of caveats to consider. First, try not to read too much into this. These are very vague comments, of the type many companies make when they don’t have much new to impart, or when they don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations. And remember, the science Follica is pursuing is, as far as we can tell, still extremely experimental. So even with some solid advances, an effective treatment could well be years off.

Still, I hope this helps to some degree. Rest assured, we will keep trying to learn more and will let you know as soon as we do. And if you learn anything, please don’t hesitate to let us know, and we will try to run it down.


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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  • billy

    tk im 24. my hair as thinned out at the temples and i have a real tuff middle patch. im using propecia, miniox and iv just started to take l-lynise tables 1000mg as i read it is good on hairsite.

    what is a paleo diet? please explain? thanks

  • tk

    billy,
    Your hair loss really doesn’t seem so bad. Don’t make it into an obsession or you’ll lose the best years of your life.
    A Paleo diet is simply avoiding any type of grain, or dairies. Just eat lean meat, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts, fruits and lots of vegetables. It keeps insulin levels low, hence should slow your loss.
    Adding magnesium and vitamin D supplements could help you as well.
    Don’t waste your youth over this. Stay on the regimen and live your life.

  • billy

    tk. its bad but at the same times its not bad. thanks for your advice. iv been coming on these sites and looking in the mirror every day which is not a good thing!

    i just hope in the near future we can see a better treatment or even a cure so we can focus on other things!

  • tk

    billy,
    It’s more about the loss than the hair. If you hair was stable, it wouldn’t be such an issue. It’s the loss of control, the slow march towards death that can rob you of your energy, and destroy your youth.
    Being obsessed with your hair is normal, I would say. Just make sure you’re doing everything in your power to slow down the loss, and then keep your mind off it.
    The good thing for you is that you might have a real cure in your thirties. We should have something in 10-15 years if things go well. I’m certainly not counting on anything sooner than that, truth be told. Dreaming can make you feel good, but focusing on life will lead you farther in the long run.

  • billy

    tk you truley know how it feels. Your right. We must stay positvie. Hopefully we will hear good new from this confrence in June.

  • tk

    billy,
    for sure I know how it feels. My case was far worse than yours at your age. In my case I’m 100% sure that stress was the reason I satrted going so young.
    But hey! Most popular Hollywood actors are wearing hair pieces, so there’s always a way to live your life fully no matter what. (Think Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Matthew McCaunnehey, and even Johnny Depp.)

  • Artista

    Only for the sake of an amusing and frivolous debate~~
    1)Ben Affleck- Hairpiece is a good possibility
    2)George Clooney- has his own hair
    3)Tom Cruise- has all his hair
    4)Matt McCaughnehey-has had transplants
    5)Johnny Depp-possibly has had fill in FUEs
    ~~my own observations of course

  • Christian

    Instead of talking about the best schampoo or Propecia…
    I found the method George C. patented for generating new hair follicles. Here are some short-cuts from the patent. Interesting with the result of minoxidil (Rogaine)…

    ” To determine the effect of minoxidil on EDIHN recombinant FGF is administered 11 days after incisional wounding, as described in Example 11. Minoxidil administration enhances HF formation, showing that new HF can be generated by (a) disrupting the epidermis; and (b) administering a minoxidil.”

    But…

    “Enhancement of EDIHN by Expression of a .beta.-Catenin Activator

    [0226]To determine the effect of administration of .beta.-catenin activators on EDIHN, K14-Wnt7 transgenic mice, which overexpress the .beta.-catenin pathway activator, Wnt7, in the epidermis, were subjected to EDIHN, then HF formation was measured 19 days after wounding. In each of 2 separate experiments, with 4 week old and 3 week old mice, the transgenic mice developed significantly larger numbers of HF compared to control, non-transgenic littermate mice (FIG. 27 A-C).”

    It seems that the right wound + some special compound will generate new HF. That, we all ready know. But I dont think you knew that minoxidil + wound would generate new HF.

    Source: http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20090304635

  • Ryan

    Jordan I don’t believe you spoke to anyone from Follica, it just doesn’t make any sense. They have been virtually mute for over a year and have refused to answer any questions, but you just rang up and they told you all you wanted to know, I find that hard to believe.

    Also, Shooter I saw this post from you the other day on the other board.

    “I was doing some research about clinical trials the other day to dispel a lot of the rumors I had been hearing. As it turns out “research studies”, “clinical research”, and “human proof of concept studies” can all be used interchangeably for Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials. Once these are done, Phase 3 takes about another year in most cases. Most of us, because we are so concerned, would be perfect candidates for Phase 3 and can have access to these treatments before they ever hit the market”

    Now if we were to believe what Jordan said where would it fit in with your information about trials, I’m not certain about what exactly it would mean if they were in phase 1 trials with regards to time lines.

  • Jordan

    Ryan i never spoke to Follica! I said has anyone spoke to them? I think you are mistaken.

  • Shooter

    Hey Ryan,

    The information I found may or may not apply to Follica. They are really adamant about the fact that they are NOT in trials right now… so I have no clue what to make of their situation. Since the onset of their research they have been taking a very unorthodox approach, so we have no way of knowing how much progress (if any) they are making.

    I don’t believe anything will come from Follica in the near-term, tbh.

    However, what I said does apply to Aderans. I’m not sure if their phase 2 is going well or not, but if it is, phase 3 would follow relatively shortly and that would allow people to actally gain a significant amount of hair. Having said that… it is a LONG shot that phase 2 will work perfectly since phase 2 carries the most risk.

  • billy

    Shooter i thought that follica has started a 15 – 20 patient study of something? Have you heard something we havent?

  • Shooter

    Billy – I am going from this statement by Cotsarelis himself (dated June 2009).

    “Thank you for your interest in my research. Rest assured that we are continuing our work on hair follicle stem cells and hair follicle regeneration in the hopes of better understanding hair growth and developing treatments for hair loss. The Follica website (http://www.follicabio.com/) will have information regarding upcoming clinical trials. We are not performing any clinical trials at this time.”

    http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/may07/hair-follicle-regeneration.html

    Also, UPenn is conducting a trial right now aimed at PREVENTING hair growth… so… thanks, Follica.

  • Billy

    THANKS A LOT FOLLICA!!! ALL HYPE!!

    they have NOTHING!
    Histogen is our only chance

    were all going to die bald!

  • Jordan

    yeah your right billy. im too thinking there is no hope

  • Rev

    Cotsarelis better sing like a bird @ hair2010.org because, at this point, I’m not amused by Follica’s tactics.

  • Ritchie

    Does anyone have any thoughts, or experience with this product?
    http://www.adistem.com/application/hair-growth.htm

  • Ritchie

    Does anyone have any thoughts, or experience with this product? I’m thinking of trying it out.
    http://www.adistem.com/application/hair-growth.htm

  • Metsie

    Ritchie it sounds like garbage. Sounds like they are borrowing lines from Follica type process and offer you to try it for $53.00. Think about it, why would they have to sell it?????? Dont be a victim.

  • Metsie

    Didnt mean to sound too sarcastic with the Dont be a victim BS. I just hate to see people waste money on garbage.I’m just amazed how much is wasted each year on products thast just dont work.
    Read the follica bio. The qualifications of each of those people suggests they are ready to make some move though I have no idea when. I’m not sure how long 16 mil. will last but they cant live on funding forever.

  • johnny84
  • deluxe

    how many more phases to go with aderans? And what is the projected time of release for the cure?

  • Joey

    hey guys any updates on follica or other hair regeneration biotech companies?

  • Godefroy

    So, William, I know you’re not at liberty to divulge a lot, but judging by your comments here, is it correct for us to assume Follica has already started doing some kind of actual testing, human or otherwise?

  • rali

    hi, brand new here, and Ive been thinning for a while now so I was looking up for some breakthrough treatments and came along this-

    “http://www.bignews.biz/?id=832566&pg=1&keys=cloning-transplant-restoration-hair”

    it talks about successfully cloning hair using wound healing powder approved by the FDA.
    Since Iam not an avid follower, I wanted to know what people think of this system of treatment.Is it a real breakthrough or something else.

  • A
  • rev

    My money’s on Aderans and Histogen.

    Two and half years have passed since the Jan 01/2010 NBC piece where Follica bragged about their technology. In that time they have-yet to tell us they achieved proof-of-concept on honest-to-goodness human beings let alone start trials. I’m honestly tired defending Cots and Crew. As far as I’m concerned, Follica can suck my c*ck

  • rev

    Correction. since the Jan 01/2008 NBC piece

  • Joey

    http://www.histogen.com/aboutus/news_events.htm#25

    thanks for the above post. This link looks very promising. Can someone tell me a little more about how long it actually takes a product to be approved by the FDA? I was considering a HTP but I might be able to wait this one out…

  • Deluxe

    I’m going to start circling this article now.

  • Deluxe

    Does anyone know when the new Histogen trials are starting?

  • DBS

    I’ve been vascilating back and forth as to whether Follica is in the game or just twiddling their thumbs. I’m going to try and make the case they have something good, maybe even better than good.

    They raised $5.5 million for their proof of concept trial and we know that took place as it was confirmed by company officials. Almost as soon as they confirmed the trials, they went out and raised $11 million in very short order. Why?

    For venture capitalists to give another $11 million in such short order might indicate Follica’s results were really great and warrented a faster schedule. I think it’s also good that around the same time Follica took on a CEO with dermatological experience rather than a start-up CEO like Zohar.

    Unfortunately, we’re left to read tea leaves because there are no updates coming. I sure hope they announce, success or fairlure, whatever happened.

  • Ryan

    So are we using both pages for comments now?

    DBS I thought Follica would be the first to market when they said they had brought their second round of fund raising forward by a couple of years. To me that was an indication that they were advancing rapidly, but since then I’m not so sure.

  • Herzog

    I’m only reading and\or posting on this thread starting now. Just makes sense.

  • Artista

    Deluxe,,they begin this Fall in Singapore

  • Joey

    Until proven otherwise, I think Follica is out of the game. IMO it’s really down to Histogen and Aderans. Is anyone else considering postponing a HTP?

  • Mr. Z

    Joey, I’m actually thinking the opposite and considering getting a FUE transplant… banking on the hope that either aderans or follica will come through and can be used to enhance the transplant. I just have a hard time seeing either of these treatments as being a 100% fix for NW3 or greater baldness. Of course, i’m speculating, but think that they’ll still have problems with hairlines. Which is where a normal transplant could be used. I’m thinking more along the lines that these technologies will be used in conjunction with a transplant rather than a cure in of themselves.

    I’m currently a 2-2.5NW but am noticing my hair starting to thin in the mid scalp – before it was just temples. To look at it, you would think i have a good head of hair. But, my hair is eroding rapidly and everday i’ve got a little less and it’s more visible. Figure i’m down to a year or two before it’s a major problem. Probably won’t see these technologies by that point… which sucks!

  • ZZ

    DBS, I wouldn’t count Follica out by any means. I know many are very frustrated with their silence but remember that Follica is essentially owned by a venture capital group that is experienced and all business. The stakes are high and the culture is stealth. For example, you might compare it to Steve Jobs at Apple if you know how infamous he is for keeping things under wraps. Follica is not run by Cotsarelis. His experience is in research not business. He owns stock and is a scientific advisory board member who consults w/ Follica and I’m sure is very involved on the scientific end as a consultant but his full time job is the head of the Department of Dermatology at U of Penn where he continues to conduct research on all sorts of things. (Penn will get royalties from Follica if they are ultimately successful) Personally, it would be great if Follica could communicate more, but it doesn’t really bother me b/c from a purley business perspective, I can understand where they are coming from. I think the frustration for all of us was that the NBC piece lead us to believe that the cure was far closer than it really was. It is very plausible that the NBC piece was little more than a well orchestrated fundraising tool and that it was just much more successful than Histogen’s PR efforts. Remember, within 6 months of that piece, they raised $16.5 million. Also, note that whenever anyone is asked about a timeline the answer is always conditioned with “if everything goes perfectly”. So by simple math, the answer almost always has to be about 5 years…a year for a proof of concept study, a year for each clinical trial Phase, and then regulatory approval. In Follica’s case they weren’t factoring in much regulatory approval time. As you know, nothing ever goes perfectly. They are still a player but fortunately for us, there are 3 other great possibilities to get excited about. Has anybody noticed that of the 3 private entities in the game, Trichoscience needed almost no noticable PR to raise funding? The inference can certainly be made that they had some very convincing research to accomplish that.

  • Mr. Z

    Good post, ZZ. Another factor which i think may go into explaining Follica’s silence is that, if their treatment really is as simple as they’ve let on i.e. skin disruption in conjunction with an already approved med, then it will be absolutely critical for them to be first to market. Generally, the first company to market with a drug or procedure will take the large majority of the market share and hold it, profiting for long periods of time. They’ll recieve the most publicity and will be the first name people think of when they consider hair restoration. There is a lot at stake. A simple technique like this will be easily copied and a smart firm could find a way around their patent and steal market share. So, keeping your IP protected is of the utmost importance.

    When Follica releases info about their procedure and it’s effectiveness, they need to be in position to license and distribute their product immediately, so as to outpace the competition, which will quickly figure out ways to steal market share. So, my guess is that nothing will be heard from them until they’re ready to go, then there will be a blitz of news, science info, advertising, interviews etc.. followed by rapid implementation of the procedure in clinics or however they’re planning to handle that aspect.

    Based on the hiring they’ve done, it looks to me like they’ve got something that works. They have hired people in both Operations and Marketing – which sounds like they positioning themselves to push forward with commercialization.

    I think the big question is, what role will the FDA play in this? They’re using previously approved medication, and skin disruption (i think they’re looking at lasers to accomplish) is nothing new i.e. very safe, so, how much of the approval process will be side stepped? This will be critical for determining how fast they can commercialize a product. My personal view is that they should be able to get through the process very quickly – safety is established, so really they’ll only need to demonstrate efficacy. Is it possible that could be done in a single, large trial? I don’t know, but that would be nice. Follica is paying out a lot of salaries to the executie team, advisory board, and employees they’ve brought on board, the clock is ticking, they’ll need a revenue stream pretty soon.

  • DBS

    I understand the secrecy aspect of Follica as they would not want to give away their technique. The point I was making is the rapidity with which the second round of funding came could suggest the proof of concept was so successful they went right back to their donors for money to conduct a larger trial.

    With confidentiality agreements, it’s not unreasonable to believe that is happening. It’s probably not likely, but to go silent for a year leaves us with nothing to do but read the tea leaves. As I see it, there are three possibilities. They have a big success that is further along, they are in a holding pattern, or they have flopped.

    I discount the flop as a possibility. This seems to be the real break through for hair loss. It’s much like sowing grass seed in a barron area of the yard. First, you till up the ground (dermabrasion). Second, you sow the seeds (Wnt application). Third you wait for it to grow (new hair).

    I also find it hard to believe the NBC story was cooridinated. NBC went to them based on the Nature story, not the other way around.

  • rev

    Until Follica posts a basic statement they achieved proof-of-concept on humans – they’re a-holes.

    Until they keep that NBC piece on their site without any intent meeting its deadlines – they’re a-holes

    Until they stop acting like a-holes – they’re…. you guessed it… a-holes.

  • lurker

    Can anyone answer this:

    Out of all the major players in this race (follica, aderans, ect.), have any of them addressed the hairline? Meaning, do any of these techniques seem to point to the fact that a hair transplant would not be necessary to secure the hairline? Are some better than others in that regard? If so, which ones?

  • Artista

    We have the triple Z attack here..lol. Great points made guys!! As always Rev, the sardonic wit at work. Lurker , that could be a possible issue in this type of treatment. Not a huge issue i would guess.

  • Joey

    Thanks for the great info guys. Any speculation on what phase (a year for a proof of concept study, a year for each clinical trial Phase, and then regulatory approval) follica might be up to?

  • Shooter

    Joey, I refuse to be optimistic about Follica. For that reason I can only go by what they’ve given us: pre-clinical stage.

  • deluxe

    Artista,

    What do you think is the probability of Follica dropping the bomb on us and releasing a commercial cure in the near-term?!

    I’m wouldn’t be surprised buddy

  • rev

    It would be a neat trick to release a product that works flawlessly on humans without actually testing it on a single human.

  • Artista

    Well Deluxe, I go by the postings that have been provided by ZZ especially. “The stakes are high and the culture is stealth. For example, you might compare it to Steve Jobs at Apple if you know how infamous he is for keeping things under wraps” I would NOT be surprised if Follica did unveil some type of treatment sooner rather than later.That is all speculative. What is FACTUAL is that Histogen is getting ready to start trials this Fall in Singapore.They have a treatment that WORKED (HSC) to some extent and they received funding to fly out to Asia for phase 2. No speculation there ! Go with what you know.

  • DBS

    I’m posting way too much, but here’s a thought. I would like to think Follica is ready to drop a bomb in the form of a treatment in the next few months, but I don’t think it will happen. Regardless, just because we know of no trial doesn’t mean one hasn’t or isn’t happening.

    I think we know more about Histogen and others because they are trying to use the publicity of their clinical work to bring in the money Follica has gotten without publicity. Considering reputability of Follica’s staff, I don’t think they’re under the pressure some other startups with lesser knowns might feel.

    As for what Follica can skip in the trial process, has anyone figured that out? Are they able to bypass phase II because the factors are already in use? If we’re being really optimistic and they are in pahse I already, who knows what might happen in the next year.

  • Shooter

    Companies cannot skip any phase of the clinical trial process. The best case scenario is they expedite phases by combining them or running adaptive trials. That is the best we can hope for, but I can’t stress this enough: DON’T HOLD OUT HOPE FOR THESE GUYS!

    I agree with Artista that we should go with what we know. Histogen is an honest company with an honest product and clinical trials lined up overseas. Aderans is the largest contender and they are already half way through trials. IMO, they deserve our focus and attention, not folliclowns.