San Diego’s Halozyme Therapeutics Seeks Biotech Cure for Cellulite

2/9/10

Cellulite is the bane of women everywhere. Caused by the irregular tightening of connective fibers between the muscle and skin, cellulite mars the rump and thighs with uneven dimples and bulges, as if a layer of cottage cheese lies just below the skin. Cosmetic creams and lotions can make the skin look smoother by inducing swelling to mask the dimples, but there is no lasting solution.

In the parlance of drug discovery, that creates an unmet need and a potentially lucrative market, given the millions of dollars women spend on marginally effective remedies each year. Men are seldom affected by the cosmetic condition.

Sensing opportunity, San Diego-based Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ: HALO) is working on a treatment that attacks cellulite at its source. The experimental remedy is an enzyme—recombinant human lysosomal proteinase—that digests collagen, the main protein of connective tissue.

When injected into a dimple, the enzyme “snips” the connective fibers tugging on the skin. Once the fibers are snipped, the dimple is released and the contour of the skin is smoother.

Although the enzyme isn’t ready for human tests, it has shown promise in animal studies, CFO Kurt Gustafson says. “We have the smoothest, most beautiful looking pigs you have ever seen,” he told me recently. One worry, of course, is that Halozyme’s enzyme will destroy more collagen than necessary and the skin will become flaccid as it loses its connectivity to underlying tissue. Halozyme addresses this problem by leveraging the enzyme’s inherent affinity for acidic environments.

Lysomal proteinase is normally found in lysosomes, digestive structures within cells. The pH inside lysosomes is 5-6, more acidic than … Next Page »

Denise Gellene is a former Los Angeles Times science writer and regular contributor to Xconomy. You can reach her at dgellene@xconomy.com Follow @

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