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Hair-Raising Follica Study Could Point to Baldness Therapy

Xconomy Boston — 

[Updated, 11:00 am ET] Few stories have struck a chord with Xconomy’s readership quite like that of Follica, the PureTech Ventures-incubated startup founded in 2006 with plans to combat male and female pattern baldness by using adult stem cells to grow new hair follicles. Unfortunately, details regarding Follica’s science—let alone its clinical progress—have been as tough to spot as a good toupee.

Boston-based Follica and the man behind its technology—University of Pennsylvania stem cell biologist George Cotsarelis— at least partially lifted the lid (or wig?) on those secrets today with two announcements: First, a research team led by Cotsarelis has identified a key protein that could potentially be used therapeutically to help people grow new hair follicles; Cotsarelis has published the results of that study in Nature Medicine. Secondly, Follica claims to have used its technology in a procedure that successfully grew new hair follicles in humans in a clinical trial. [An earlier version of this story indicated that Follica used that protein, Fgf9, in its clinical trial. Olle later clarified that the protein, Fgf9, has only been involved in Follica’s preclinical work so far].

Even so, a number of questions remain. Follica provided little else in terms of specifics—for example, how many people are in the trials, where they took place, the extent of those results, exactly what its next study will look like, or roughly how long it will take for these findings to turn into a real live procedure sold on the market. It is similarly evasive as to the details of the procedure it is devising.

“We’ve had to be careful about how we deliver the news because there’s all these huge responses,” says Follica co-founder and PureTech principal Bernat Olle.

For those new to the Follica story, here’s the synopsis: Research that Cotsarelis conducted at his lab at Penn showed that new hair follicles would form at the center of some skin wounds. The general concept is that when the top layers of the skin are removed, the skin cells underneath are essentially in a primitive, embryonic state at which they can form new skin, new hair follicles, and ultimately new hair. Follica’s quest has been to devise a procedure-drug combination to take advantage of that window of time and direct the cells to form new hair follicles.

Now Cotsarelis appears to have found the catalyst that could potentially turn that idea into a treatment. Cotsarelis and his team have homed in on a protein known as fibroblast growth factor 9, or Fgf9, that they believe to be implicated in the growth of hair follicles. Fgf9—which is found in short supply in humans, according to Olle—is part of a family of proteins formed by cells in the skin that perform a variety of biological functions such as wound healing. The researchers found in the study that cells produce a lot of Fgf9 right before a new hair follicle forms on a layer of skin. So by increasing Fgf9 while the skin is regenerating, researchers could potentially direct the skin to form new hair follicles.

“It draws a very clear link between tissue regeneration and the skin immune system,” Olle says. “It opens the way to therapeutically intervene in humans with the approach.”

Follica’s idea, then, is to use its proprietary devices—around which Olle says the company has a broad group of patents—to induce this process to occur, and then add Fgf9. What this would lead to, in theory, is a hair-raising procedure: a doctor would use a device specifically created by Follica to remove the top layers of the skin in a targeted area of hair loss. (Olle says the procedure isn’t painful, but the area could be numbed anyway.) While the skin is in this state, the doctor would then apply a drug. Olle declined to specify what type of drug this would be, whether that drug would contain fgf9, or if the procedure/drug combination would induce the body to produce fgf9 on its own. He did say, though, that the company has been doing a lot of work with topical formulations that are applied directly to the skin.

Follica said in its statement that it has already done preclinical tests that combine devices it has created to disrupt the skin with several unspecified “known and novel drugs.” It also claims to have run “a series” of human clinical trials, including a mid-stage study that has caused new hair follicles to be produced in humans. Unfortunately for our rabid readers, however, Olle and Follica aren’t offering many details from these studies, other than to indicate that the platform is proving to work so far and that the research has paved the way for the company’s next step: to try a specific device configuration with a specific, well-known and studied drug (meaning it wouldn’t have to be as extensively tested as a new chemical) in a group of human patients.

“We’ve been able to consistently show that we crate substantial new hair follicles in humans, and that’s something that no other approach in hair loss as far as I am aware has been able to achieve,” Olle says. “That’s a critical step. The goal of some of those early trials has been to test the hypothesis of the mechanism that we had seen in mice.”

Follica would still have to determine in longer trials and follow-ups with patients, for example, how long the new hair lasts so as to know if patients would have to get another procedure down the road.

Olle and PureTech managing partner Daphne Zohar co-founded Follica in late 2006 along with Cotsarelis, Harvard Medical School dermatologist Rox Anderson, and Vera Price, the director of the University of California, San Francisco Hair Research Center. Kirk Raab, the former CEO of Genentech, is the company’s chairman. William Ju, a board certified dermatologist who formerly worked at Merck Research Laboratories, Pharmacia, and PTC Therapeutics, became CEO in May 2009. The company has raised $19 million in financing through two rounds since its inception, according to Olle.

The interest in Follica’s pursuit has been enormous at Xconomy. Put it this way: our last story was written in 2011 and it is still serving as a defacto message board on the topic. Some 2,000 comments have been posted. That, if nothing else, shows the intense interest surrounding the company’s work.

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  • julian


    Well, that’s he (Cotsarelis) saying they would need to partner with a company to conduct the trials so as to respond that question.. can it reverse hair loss (used topically) or simply prevent it?

    • julian

      Now we know this company is Kythera (with Actelion agreement) and they’ve testing it for about 2 years…

  • julian

    “Setipiprant had previously been studied as a potential allergic inflammation treatment and had undergone eight clinical trials, including a Phase III study in seasonal allergic rhinitis patients and a Phase II proof of concept study in asthma patients, resulting in a safety database of more than 1,000 patients. Actelion suspended the development of setipiprant due to a lack of efficacy seen in the above-mentioned clinical trials for inflammatory disorders. Treatment in all studies was well tolerated across all treatment groups and no serious adverse events were reported.”


    My point is.. they were testing for safety, 1000+ patients… many of them should be hair loss sufferers obviously… so why didn’t they reported an incredible growth of hair? OR it should be that setipiprant would have to be applied topically to really have an effect in hair loss?

    • Mr. Z

      It’s possible that oral administration of the drug does not reach the active site, or that the doses used in those studies are not appropriate for hair growth. So, you may be correct when you ask if it has to be used topically. And/Or, maybe it needs to be used along with something else…for instance, wounding to generate regrowth.

  • McJ

    Old but interesting article that came on after the fgf9 news in 2013;


    So many questions – and answers we’re not going to get anytime soon I reckon – but it would be interesting to find out how it translated to humans. Even if the hair was susceptible to the same process of loss, it would last for a good number of years. A hair cycle is pretty long. Fingers crossed we’ll hear about that Puretech money being pumped into Follica soon.

    • julian

      ow my god… 2013?? still fgf9?? Why Kythera didn’t sponsor it if it is so damn good? why didn’t Kythera partnered Follica then? Why are they just interested in the PGD2? Puretech won’t give a cent to Follica apparently. I don’t know how we are still talking about this company, and dreaming that they will show something anytime.. they don’t give a F… you know. That’s the truth.

  • julian


    • Vikki

      Maybe they, like pretty much everyone else, have no idea how well / not well Follica is doing, but have seen enough evidence of the efficacy of setipiprant to warrant investment?

      • julian

        But they have contact with George Cotsarelis, they would want to know that before investing, wouldn’t it? Cotsarelis works for Follica and is working for Kythera too? very odd…

        • Vikki

          I’m speculating wildly, here. But it’s entirely possible (very likely, actually) that Dr Cotsarelis has fingers in several pies, so to speak. For example, he is on Follica’s board, but also works at UPenn.
          The Follica approach / research is separate to this setipiprant stuff – it looks as though Kythera entered into agreements with Actelion (the developers of setipiprant) and UPenn, who published the PGD2 research. Very interesting that Kythera have been sponsoring research into this treatment at UPenn for the past 2 years, and have now (presumably) put more money into the project – which, to me, is a sure sign that there is a great deal to be optimistic about with regards to this potential treatment.
          I’m guessing that the Follica research is already covered by some other agreements, NDAs, patents, etc. and wouldn’t necessarily form part of discussions between Dr Cotsarelis and Kythera.
          Working in science myself, I can say it’s quite normal that an academic researcher may have several funding sources and will quite likely be involved in a number of separate projects, possibly with several different external partners.

          If I was being super-optimistic, I’d say that there are 2 possible treatments coming out of Dr Cotsarelis’ research. This is very good news – imagine, for example that Follica releases a product which is highly effective, but maybe only for 80% of people. If you’re one of the unfortunate 20%, or you’re allergic to the drug(s) used, then there’s another effective treatment from Kythera that might work for you.

          This situation would be sooooo much better than the current situation!

  • Vikki

    No idea whether this is noteworthy, but it is (to me at least) interesting…on Kythera’s executive team there are three individuals (Frederick Beddingfield, Elisabeth Sandoval, Ryan Irvine) who all previously worked for Allergan. The first two had some involvement with Latisse.

    • McJ

      Could be… Think there was a Neal Walker link to Allergan too, no? In any event, I guess we’re all kind of waiting to see what happens to that Puretech money and where it might go. There was a lot of unwarranted negativity around that for some reason but Follica were mentioned in a press release put out by Puretech themselves;


      Time will tell but the naysayers have, for some batsh#t crazy reason, been out for Follica for ages. They clearly have the best team in the biz and Follica outsourced a lot of their work hence all those departures from Follica a couple years ago. I’m thankful a company like that, success or not, exist. Cause any new treatment isn’t going to come from these armchair scientists or people who berate Follica for no reason. It’s a waiting game. Always has been and I get the frustration in that.

      • julian

        They just mention Follica as one of the companies that Puretech sponsor.. No mention as if they will grab a portion of that money.. yes, it’s a waiting game indeed, and it sucks cause we may be waiting for nothing since they don’t let us know anything, never.

      • Vikki

        I think he was at Allergan previously, now you mention it.
        I’m very thankful, like you, that Follica exists. Even if it ultimately fails, it’ll have moved hair regeneration research forward.
        I, personally, don’t think it will fail though. It’s taking longer than people would like, but there is obviously something good going on behind the scenes or they’d have wound the company up by now.

    • Julian

      Good to know that.. I think it is noteworthy FOR SURE.

  • julian

    A good sign that Follica is doing great would be an announcement of funding. We already know Puretech got money and would like to hear from them that some of it is going to Follica, they could just tell something about that, couldn’t they? they don’t need to tell nothing more than that.

    • julian

      Is it to ask too much?

  • McJ
  • julian

    how long it will take until we hear a word from Follica? or Puretech stating that it will give their share… frustrating to wait. Worrying…

  • julian

    Well, this article is about to complete 2 years. Follicas “breakthrough” is seven years now. Double the time they thought.. if all go well, according to Cotsarelis. Off course, all didn’t go well.. All we know now is the same we knew back in 2008.. and we got less hair than in 2008, not more as we dreamed by now we were supposed to have. It really sucks.

    • disappointed

      You might as well go after Nixon for declaring a “war on cancer” in the 1960’s. Cotsarelis — can you name a list of the drugs currently on the market which were discovered in his laboratory or for which he was on multiple Scientific Advisory Boards during the drugs development? Let it go already, he’s a doctor but he’s not the guy you want to call if you get sick, he’s been a professor running a basic research lab for many years. Not someone who has a lot of experience, despite his seniority, in the drug development field. He said something stupid in a NBC TODAY SHOW interview…. not in a Letter to the Editor of the journal Nature. Cots screwed up, and yeah, his company may carry on and they may flame out, as many often do.

      Developing a new drug or procedure is difficult. Even if there was no other competition on the planet there are many reasons for failure including terrible operations, poor translation from mouse to human, and weak business plan, to name a few.

      Puretech has funding, but they are a VC firm. Their main goal is to make a great monetary return. You don’t hedge your bets by dumping money into one group over and over. If Follica was impressing the hell out of Puretech, some cash would be forthcoming. If Follica is getting by but the results are anything less than stellar than who should Puretech give money to? Maybe other investments (including new ones) to hedge their bets. Otherwise Follica could potentially take down Puretech with them.Incidentally Puretech is not some incredibly huge fund, they are taking chances on very high risk/high reward efforts.

      • disappointed

        On that last sentence, I mean to write they are a smaller fund so their angle has to be to take chances on EARLY, high risk/high reward technology. Merck, Novartis, etc. would often ignore Cotsarelis proposing a hair regrowth tech. NOT based on tech alone, mind you. Investors are not like you or I and invest in “cool stuff.” They take into account the tech, OK and 1. business plan 2. strength of intellectual property 3. Team (including advisors, etc.). For #3 Cots. had ZERO biotech start up experience and no real relationship with his CEO prior to funding (like having a newlywed couple move into your house assuming they’ll work great just because they’re married). Anyway, my feeling is, look elsewhere if this is taking a psychological toll on you.

        • julian

          But look elsewhere where?? there’s nothing more.. Nobody seems to get interest in something which would make billions.. There should be hundreds of laboratories around the world chasing a cure but there’s just 3 or 4 and no one show great promise. I can’t understand that.

          • disappointed

            But what you’re describing is the problem — who said there is no interest? There are scientists who I’m sure are interested inducing the natural growth of new teeth in patients (vs implants or false teeth) but are there companies out there? First come the ultra life threatening diseases – cancer, lou gehrig’s disease, and so on. Convincing scientists to make hair regrowth as a priority in their labs above all else (when they may have relatives themselves who are sick and near death) is difficult. Your reasoning is $$$$, but if it was all about cash then most scientists wouldn’t be scientists to begin with. Next, you’re talking about an area (for the reason I mentioned, deadly diseases) with few models, few opportunities for collaborators. I can tell you to go to University X or company Y if you’re interested in getting access to leukemia cells that have been collected from hundreds of patients. But hair growth?

            There are some basic bio labs that study, e.g. skin, and they occasionally mention hair regrowth (which gets us all excited but that has to be taken with a grain of salt.

            I don’t have an answer for you right now (and I don’t think on this often, because of the diseases I want to target – whether cancer, heart disease, etc.). What I can say is that you shouldn’t panic and say there is “nothing” out there. For example, Moderna has a RNA technology – no proteins, no risk of viral insertion and a lower threshold to take from discovery to drug. With that tech, they could delivery say, a protein that blocks a hair loss inducer (PDG2?) without the worry of destroying someone’s kidney or liver. Or with Cas9 (but this is longer down the road) a topical application, once, using tech in say, David Liu’s lab could bring Cas9 protein into the scalp and give smoeone with poor genetics the necessary changes to a receptor for great hair. Big picture — you don’t have to work on hair loss day in and day out, we know some of the players, maybe enough of them — but if other broad application tech is on the rise, it will be applicable to hair loss and a host of other diseases nearly all at once.

          • julian

            Ok, scientists don’t like money but companies love it, So why there isn’t more interest on their part, cause it is clearly an unmet need, you may say not life-threatning, or minor because of that, which I disagree, but still a BIG market. It would generate the 10 billion – IN A YEAR ONLY… EASILY you mentioned. I would say a cure to this problem would make much more than 10 billion, you said in 10 years… a cure to baldness would make that in six months, you can bet that. Off course I’m talking about a cure, something which Medicine doesn’t know what is, it never cured nothing.

          • julian

            doctors know everything about a problem, a disease.. they just don’t know how to solve it.. great!! LOL

      • McJ

        Thanks for chiming in here again – always appreciate your comments. What did you make of the relatively recent puretech money grab? The fact is, they haven’t announced what exactly they’re going to do with that money – or specifically what programmes are getting a cash injection.

        I guess I figured that if we didn’t hear about Follica getting any of that money, then things probably weren’t looking great for them. Would you agree?

        Also there was something recently about Kythera and Upenn;


        Again, despite some of the noise, probably a good few years away from coming to market – if it was effective. I suppose I’m still quietly hoping that Follica are doing well…but I guess time will tell.

        • disappointed

          Hey there, I appreciate the thanks but just contributing what little I can when not overly stressing about my own projects.

          So, on your first question — all VC groups go through rounds of funding. Big firms that raise billions wouldn’t even talk to say, a Follica, when Puretech went in. That is, the big firms want to invest $100 million and get back $10 billion+ in 10 years, the guys asking for $10million aren’t even on the radar. And for good reason – smaller groups flame out. A bigger group can have really bad years, but that won’t cause them to implode. Along those lines, Puretech may invest in those high risk groups but they have to hedge their bets and spread their investments. Out of the current list of investments…. if 9 out of 10 fail, it may not be a surprise. If 3 out of 10 investment actually succeed (get bought up, expand, etc.) then we could all say, wow, 3 out 10 is darn good! Just because Puretech has $20-40 million more in new funding means nothing. A Phase II trial could cost more than that….. so you risk the money ALL on Follica, possibly fail, and then what’s left for the every other “we’re going to succeed” investment??? If Follica is on fire, sure Puretech would put in money to get a bigger piece of the pie but at this point Follica should have such exciting results that they should have money coming in from elsewhere.

          That’s my long winded way of stating — so what about Purtech not coming in for a second round, they help launch the little guys, not keep them fed. But for zero other monies coming in to Follica… not good.

          Kythera is a different approach. That’s fine. Cots doesn’t own the discoveries he makes and published — UPenn does. And they probably decided that giving a license to an established biotech was teh shortest route to success. If it pans out, a hair loss drug could be on the way…. in many years. Nothing dubious or in conflict there.

          I would say that even if you wiped out every “hair loss” company on the planet, it wouldn’t matter. Predicting the future in biotech is very difficult.

          • McJ

            As ever, very insightful. Thanks. I suppose I’ll keep an open, if somewhat less optimistic mind, on this. Of course, the Follica results could be great and they’re prepping right now for… Ah, I won’t go there. Too optimistic!

            I guess we’re coming up on almost two years since the last bit of news…And there have been a lot of silences in between over the years but I guess without new monies coming in, maybe not so great this time.

          • julian

            A BALDNESS CURE WOULD MAKE MUCH MUCH MORE THAN 10 BILLION IN 10 YEARS.. It makes more than this now with fewer than 10 percent of sufferers seeking help.. if there was an effective – SUPER EFFECTIVE, treatment, it would be 100% RUNNING after a this treatment, you doubt that???? then how much would it make? 80% of men around the world plus some 40% or more of women.. desperately going after it. More than half of the adult population (men and women) of this planet HAS SOME DEGREE OF BALDNESS.. Off course a great portion doesn’t have the means to pay for a treatment, if it is expensive, but still an ENORMOUS market. It would easily make much more than 10 billion/YEAR. You can roughly estimate it if you want.

          • disappointed

            You are getting away from my point here.
            A) a cure for all cancers would generate a trillion dollars
            B) therefore, the logic based on ‘A’ is that anybody who has some interesting results in mice deserves to have venture capitalists blow all their investment money on them.

            “a cure would generate 10 billion”
            – on its best day, what Cots published is not a cure. It was a basic finding that could possibly (possibly) translate to some level of therapy. And that therapy would be a service company (not the ideal model), where wounding and some factor(s) (??) would be added.
            OK – so let’s spend 1 billion dollars on Follica. Wait a minute… Follica isn’t a permanent, 100% successful cure. And from there maybe there are other reasons the venture capitalists are getting turned off to Follica — maybe it only works on 25 years olds, and over the age of 25 it sucks. Maybe the results across the scalp are highly variable so the patients look weird after treatment…. Suddenly you’re going from 10 billion dollars to 50 cents because nobody wants to pay for a therapy with weird results.

            Do you realize who Bob Langer at Puretech is? His lab has brought some really long shot therapies to patients with brain tumors, developmental defects, spinal damage, etc. etc. He’s not some close minded idiot who doesn’t care about therapy and doesn’t care about making money. And he and rest of the Puretech team invested 11 million dollars in Follica – of course they were excited about the company! Do you think Puretech would feel great if they just lost 11 million dollars?

          • julian

            I did not say That what Cotsarelis published is a Cure, I just said what is obvious, that Whoever finds or develops a Cure, will make TRILLIONS as well. It’s undeniable, you may calculate it yourself, just look at the current figures, which are spent with unsatisfactory treatments and drugs, the problem remains unsolved, needs are unmet, which explains why just a very small percentage of the people who NEED and WANT to have more hair (it’s a very large amount.. from various degrees of thin hair to slick bald heads, as you know).. well, it’s said to be 10% of the real market, only 10% are currently buying some kind of product and trying to do something about their hairless. 90 PERCENT, the rest, don’t do nothing about it because it’s useless, there is no cure, no matter how much you want to spend!! I live in Brazil, one of the richest men here, now he’s broke, but still very rich. This guy, after doing some hair transplants and seeing the obvious, that they can only recover a small amount due to the obvious limitation of the donor areas, well. now he uses a WIG, a hairpiece, toupee… this ridiculous thing which still today is the ultimate SOLUTION. Well, he wears a wig glued, literally GLUED to his scalp, a wig that cost him 25.000 dollars!!! plus what he has to spend monthly to clean, wash the wig and his scalp and glue it on it again, etc… imagine… IMAGINE how much he would pay to have HIS hair, natural hair, growing again, not having to deal with all this embarrassment, the embarrassment itself of having to wear a wig. I’m telling that to make you FEEL what it is that someone desperately in need of hair would do FOR HAIR… To me it’s clear that the companies, individuals involved in these researches and dermatology and whatever, to me they still didn’t get it, they don’t get it. They think what people spend nowadays is what they will continue to spend, not that 90 percent or almost that don’t spend a cent now WILL spend a lot of money as long as RESULTS are worth it. When they see REAL results, COSMETICALLY significant, I mean, a slick head turn into a Full head of hair overnight, they will chase that no matter what, you doubt that??

            That’s my point… the market is HUGE, but it needs a solution.. it has to be Big or otherwise it’s worthless. But once it exists, the market will respond. I don’t know, I’ve lost my hopes with Follica and Cotsarelis, unfortunately. Cause I can’t see anyone doing anything really promising. I hope they still have a chance and surprise us soon but it’s being overly optimistic to expect that since there are no signs that they’re doing fine.

  • frustrated

    Xconomy, nobody will never ask Cotsarelis what the fuck is going on with Follica? ever??

  • Aleluia

    Follica is done guys.
    We´ll have to wait 10 years at least for something “new”… pretty sad

    • V

      How do you know this?

    • julian

      I agree that these guys should have something to show already by now and it seems they don’t have, so I’m far from being optimistic about them, unfortunately. But I think they haven’t throw the towel yet, at least officially. where did you get that?

  • julian

    I wonder if great minds like Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking studied medicine and not physics, what kind of advances wouldn’t have been done already. I’m pretty sure all maladies should have been cured.

  • hairloser

    Is there a way to contact XCONOMY and ask them to try to talk to Follica and know about their progress a little, if there is any?? somebody could help?

  • julian

    How come its so difficult to find a partner to invest in this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/30/cure-hair-loss-stem-cell_n_6571404.html

    And how come they take so long to test that with HUMAN CELLS.. fuckkk

    • julian

      If they create a fucking hair to be implanted, HUMAN HAIR for Christ sake… this fucking problem is solved, it’s the same process of HAIR TRANSPLANT but without its limitation, the fucking donor area limitation.. IT’S JUST THAT, if you can replicate hairs, or healthy hair follicles, in any amount, THAT IS THE CURE, and it is worth BILLIONS. TRILLIONS!!!!!!! how can’t they see it??????????

      • Alek

        It´s really sad Julian. I really want to say good to words to you, but baldness cure seems to be very away from us.

        • julian

          I’m impressed with how with health things are so SLOW.. Man has progressed in all fields, technology, everything, it’s amazing how fast and how much!!! but in HEALTHCARE it’s a SLUG, there’s nothing… all it does is gather knowledge but NO SOLUTIONS to nothing, never!! It can’t solve anything, not even grow hair yet!! it’s amazing how incompetent man is in what should most interest him, his well being, his health, his life… SAD… really sad as you said.

          • julian

            Man already knows what happens in other galaxies but doesn’t know himself that well.. Can solve a problem in another solar system but can’t solve a problem in his own body… really odd!!! something must be wrong…

  • James
  • Shalomm

    Replicel will be in the Market in 2018… Let´s pray for this…

    • julian

      let’s pray??? c’mon… Replicel is a piece of sh… If it’s to pray for something, pray for something sooner, and better than that.. for Christ…

      • julian

        For all rage that Follica gives me, their attitude.. I hope and “pray” they could still yield something, although more more unlikely… Allergan and their bimatoprost was to provide results of their trials soon and hopefully they should be good.. if it could do to tiny hairs what it did for the eyelashes of women… that’s what is or could be nearest, I think. Other than that, Kithera is what holds more promise, but it will take longer. Other than that, only a miracle.. then you can pray!!!

  • Bruck

    FYI: Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015 Mar 18. doi: 10.1111/ced.12601.

    Potential synergistic effects of human placental extract and minoxidil on hair growth-promoting activity in C57BL/6J mice.
    Authors: Kwon TR1, Oh CT, Park HM, Han HJ, Ji HJ, Kim BJ.

    BACKGROUND: Human placenta extract (HPE) has been used to alleviate tiredness and promote wound healing, and for its antiageing functions; however, it has not yet been studied for its effects on hair growth. In the present study, we evaluated the in vitro effect of HPE on hair growth by observing its actions on human dermal papilla cells (DPCs).

    AIM: To define how HPE promotes induction of anagen hair growth during the telogen phase, and to understand the synergistic molecular mechanisms of HPE and minoxidil (MXD) actions on hair growth.

    RESULTS: We found that HPE synergistically augmented the effects of MXD, a promoter of hair growth. In particular, histomorphometric analysis data indicated that subcutaneous injection of HPE induced an earlier anagen phase and prolonged the anagen phase. It also stimulated increases in both the number and size of hair follicles in groups treated with HPE alone and HPE + MXD.

    CONCLUSIONS: From our data, we conclude that HPE increases β-catenin and Wnt3a expression levels. Overall, our findings suggest that HPE in combination with MXD has hair growth-promoting activity and is a potential novel therapeutic treatment for alopecia or baldness in humans.
    © 2015 British Association of Dermatologists.

  • Joker

    LinkedIn says the guy quoted in this article, Bernat Olle, left the company’s board of directors (after eight years) in January 2015. That can’t be a good sign. Follica has laid off staff before, but now they don’t even have anyone running this company. I just wish they would have the heart to give us an update (i.e. what went wrong?) after all the support and media attention we’ve given PureTech for the past decade.

    • Aleluia

      This is the kind of thing that makes me sad…

      • McJ

        Wouldn’t get too down. Their CEO, William Ju, left and was quietly replaced by Neal Walker. Scott Kellogg is still VP and head of operations… But again, until they announce their doing something or they’ve folded, there’s really not much to tell. I seem to remember prior to fgf9, the talk of Follica being dead was rife.

        All you can do is hope for the best. That’s it. Kythera is likely something to watch out for but again, no one really knows just how effective that is yet.

        • julian

          Wouldnt get too down? This guy Bernat Olle was one of Follicas founders… this company is dead.

          • Vikki

            I’m not totally sure what this means, but Dr Olle is a chemical engineer by trade (I believe), and his doctoral work was on bioreactors (so he’s not a hair scientist or dermatologist, as far as I can tell). He also hasn’t left PureTech – he’s still involved there and is with Vedanta (another PureTech startup) now. I don’t think this necessarily means Follica is dead at all.

          • julian

            But why a guy who has been there since the beginning left the company? William Ju got out, now another head of the company… what this means? it can’t be a good sign…

          • Vikki

            Maybe because he’s needed elsewhere at another PureTech venture? Or maybe because he wanted to move. Not necessarily a bad sign.
            I’m speculating of course, but he may well hold stock in Follica, and maybe his work there in terms of establishing the company is done.
            Like I said, he’s not a hair scientist or dermatologist, he seems to mostly be involved in startup companies these days, and he didn’t leave PureTech….
            He’s also still listed on Follica’s website.

          • McJ

            Much like the lull in news from before fgf9, most people seem to want to write Follica off yet again. No one can really know what the heck they’re up to. They’ve lost people before and they refuse to talk about their RnD so people assume the worst. Maybe they’re done for or maybe they’re planning something big, who knows!?

            Hope for the best is all you can do.

          • Vikki

            Agree! None of us know what’s going on there..unless any of the posters here are secretly Follica employees ;-)
            Maybe I’m naively optimistic, but I can’t see why they would bother maintaining a website etc. if the company had ceased to be. My intuition is that they’re working on something big.

          • McJ

            Hope you’re right! Puretech are an odd company…they do advertise themselves as an RnD company now whereas before they were an odd hybrid of VC and kind of RnD.

            I would’ve thought that, especially after puretech got that cash injection, we’ll hear something Follica related this year. Good or bad, who knows but hopefully good!

    • julian

      Nobody can contact this guy and ask him? a friend who knows someone who knows him. There should be a way to talk to him… We gotta know what is going on with this company.

  • Aleluia
    • julian

      ow my gosh… rats again!! and a million years to START testing it in people… forget it!! it’s always the same BS.. it’ll never come.. fuck them!!

    • Vikki

      Every day, research is advancing. This WILL be solved, only a matter of time.

      • Aleluia

        Yes Vikki .
        It´s a little sad that nothing new is coming.
        But it ‘s good to see that a lot of research is being done

  • McJ

    Likely most folks are sick of seeing further mouse studies but the recent plucking study is interesting,


    Certain terms do keep coming up – immune response, wounding/injury and wound healing. Would love to see what the plucking study would look like in a human study but there’s no doubt, given what Follica have already done, there’s something to this wounding/hair regeneration theory.

    Really hope Follica have something up their sleeves!

  • McJ

    Again, nothing mind blowing here but a recent Cots presentation from March outlined here;


    Certainly on the wound-healing/Follica front, things are still active it would appear as well as a mention of pgd2 blocker potentially going into trials.

  • Bruck

    Why does it take so long to get an actual clinical trial going? Often at least 2 years. Is it the high cost of doing the trial, or that new research data is coming in, or government regulation, or all of these issues?

    • julian

      Its 2 years since this fgf9 article was published. It was very promising as a stimulator to hair follicle regeneration.. but who knows if it has been tested.. That I cant understand too. A thing with such a potential should be trialed more rapidly… its everybodys interest.

  • McJ
  • McJ

    Not to bang on about this but we may find out the fate of Follica before long or at the very least some sort of news this year. A quote from the WSJ:

    “PureTech seeks out and licenses academic research from around the world it believes can be used to develop disruptive technologies. It plans to use the proceeds of the IPO to move its most advanced portfolio companies towards commercialization”


    Follica, the website, has had a slight sprucing up. Very slight. So maybe worth keeping an eye on. Really depends on where Follica is at – which because they keep a tight lid on things, we don’t really know.

    • julian

      Only we don’t know IF Follica is one of their MOST ADVANCED PORTFOLIO COMPANIES, McJ… lets just hope… as always

    • Ryan

      Unfortunately, their most advanced portfolio companies, are all consumer & digital companies,


      It’s about 9 years since Dr Cotsarellis’s first mentioning of wounding for hair growth, and we’ve been on xconomy since 2008 waiting for developments, but 7 years on we’re really no further along. The idea of an increase in tecnological development in medicine is laughable when you see where we are at, there’s hardly any real breakthroughs happening, there’s endless amounts of hype, and publications of research that leads nowhere, But as for anything that people can actually use, we are still no nearer.

      • McJ

        No disagreements from me on most of that. I will say that Follica carries a certain degree of unknowability – for lack of a better word. To say we’re no further along, I wouldn’t agree with exactly. Follica says nothing so we really can’t say. Time will tell on this one. Sooner rather than later I think.

  • julian

    what about Histogen? they had plans to launch their HSC in the US this year, 2015… remember? it’s still stated in their webpage. What went wrong? they seem to have forgotten that, what happened?

    And Replicel, joined with Shiseido and no more tell too.. All they talk about now, almost every day, is on their tendinosis thing, that interests nobody.. If Shiseido is not doing the trials then it’s all lost as well.

  • Rogermexico

    This article is two years old today. Whole lot of nothing going on…

  • julian

    this thing is endless..

  • Aleluia
    • julian

      what is that? there is an error in the page.

      • Aleluia

        Treatment of MSCs with Wnt1a-conditioned medium activates DP cells and promotes hair follicle regrowth
        Like follica´s work. 2014 research

        • julian

          Ok.. they found another way to grow hair in mice again.. great!

  • McJ

    Probably worthy of discussion – especially since CEO of Allergan mentions setipiprant;


    I do hope there is a secret race on to get the best possible product to market as soon as possible. Follica and Puretech are worth keeping an eye on this month with the puretech’s IPO on the London Stock Exchange.

    The allergan take-over is hopefully good news.

    • julian

      well McJ, that looks pretty good!!

    • julian

      It looks as they, Allergan, are primarily interested in Kythera’s treatment for double-chin.. but that could also hid their main interest, since they have tested bimatoprost as a hair loss remedy, and setipiprant could act together to enhance results, and maybe it’s that’s their goal.

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