AbbVie needs extra folks to regain the pleasure of going to a barbershop or native hair salon, and the biopharma has a eager eye for aesthetics. So, it is backing Stemson Therapeutics as a part of a $15 million sequence A, disclosed Thursday.
After selecting up Botox via its $63 billion mega merger final yr, AbbVie is not recognized for reducing quick its probabilities within the aesthetics market, nor wouldn’t it like lacking out on a possibility to enter a doubtlessly furry competitors with Johnson and Johnson’s Rogaine and Merck’s Propecia. To not point out all the opposite makers of minoxidil and finasteride, respectively.
Hair loss is an previous market, however one which has seen a dearth of innovation lately. It has been practically 30 years, 1992 to be actual, since finasteride was first authorised by the FDA. The regulatory physique gave the inexperienced mild to Rogaine for males in 1988 and for girls in 1992.
“Actually, they’ve not proven over the many years the power to cease [hair loss] over the long run and in many individuals it doesn’t even work, so that you get this mobile degeneration taking place,” mentioned Geoff Hamilton, Stemson co-founder and CEO, in an interview with Fierce Biotech.
Stemson needs to be the primary to create a hair loss therapy that makes net-new hair follicles, Hamilton mentioned. Partly why it has been practically three many years because the final innovation within the discipline is as a result of the know-how to engineer cells wasn’t round till the final decade or so, the CEO mentioned.
In the meantime, Canadian firm RepliCel is trying to make use of stem cell-like properties for its personal hair loss therapy candidate. The autologous cell remedy is being co-developed with Japanese firm Shiseido. The businesses have accomplished a section 2 dose-finding research and are preparing for a section 3 trial, with Japan prone to be the primary promote it enters, if authorised.
Stemson, alternatively, is utilizing induced pluripotent stem cells.
“The overwhelming majority of our trade and academia is way more centered on taking this identical cell engineering know-how, one in every of which is induced pluripotent stem cells, and making use of that to different illnesses, like most cancers or Parkinson’s illness or type-1 diabetes,” Hamilton mentioned.
AbbVie Ventures regarded on the portfolio of merchandise that its just lately acquired Allergan Aesthetics unit needs to carry to market, and therein the biopharma found Stemson, Hamilton mentioned. Previous to the merger, Allergan had invested in Stemson’s seed spherical, the CEO added.
“We had been fortunate sufficient to be the very first funding from AbbVie Ventures to assist the pipeline that the Allergan Aesthetics unit is thinking about,” Hamilton mentioned. Allergan Aesthetics additionally doled out $550 million in Might for cellulite and tattoo removing machine maker Soliton.
With AbbVie and Allergan backing it, Stemson may foresee a blossoming partnership and doubtlessly profitable collaborations down the highway. Stemson may take many paths.
“One in every of which, after all, is to companion with an organization like AbbVie, Allergan Aesthetics — be it a real enterprise improvement deal or a manner of advancing us via medical trials; that’s an excellent possibility for us. In order that’s why we’re thinking about sustaining our relationships with the largest trade participant within the medical aesthetic house,” Hamilton mentioned.
Regenerating a completely useful hair follicle isn’t any small feat, so a transparent timeline on coming into human medical trials just isn’t simple to forecast. Stemson is working off the technology developed by co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., from his lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.
“We don’t know when precisely we’ll get into human medical trials, however we’ve received a few years in entrance of us to actually attempt to full the R&D to the purpose the place we now have confidence and we’ll simply need to see how we progress alongside that timeline,” Hamilton mentioned. The preclinical work is at the moment being carried out in animal fashions that “can very intently approximate the human pores and skin construction and surroundings,” the CEO mentioned.
For now, Stemson will use the $15 million, on high of a 2020 $7.5 million seed spherical, to double its crew, broaden analysis and improvement efforts and enhance bioinformatics and knowledge evaluation capabilities, Hamilton mentioned.
DCVC Bio led the sequence A and Genoa Ventures participated alongside AbbVie Ventures.