BOSTON, Jan. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Follica Inc., a privately held developer of a novel therapy for androgenetic alopecia (male and female pattern hair loss caused by androgens in genetically susceptible men and women) and other hair follicle disorders, today announced a $5.5 million Series A financing round. Interwest Partners led the financing and existing investors PureTech Ventures participated. The funding is expected to take the company through a clinical proof of concept study. Follica was co-founded by PureTech Ventures and a group of academic dermatologists from leading institutions such as Harvard, UCSF and the University of Pennsylvania to address the critical issue of alopecia.
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"There is a great need for novel therapies; androgenetic alopecia begins as early as the teenage years or twenties, and affects about half the men and women in the United States by the age of 50," noted Vera Price MD, co-founder of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the Cicatricial Alopecia Research Foundation, Director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Hair Research Center and a Co-founder of Follica Inc.
In a paper published earlier this year in the top tier scientific journal Nature, technology licensed by Follica from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine was used to generate completely new hair follicles for the first time in normal adult mammals. "After skin disruption, adult epidermal stem cells that do not normally make hair follicles are reprogrammed to respond to signals instructing them to make hair," says George Cotsarelis MD, Albert M. Kligman Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a leading epithelial stem cell biologist, and Follica Co-founder. The new hair follicles function normally, cycle through the normal stages of hair growth and exhibit normal architecture, including a full complement of stem cells.
Chris Ehrlich, Partner at Interwest Ventures, will join existing board members Ronald Cape (PureTech Partner, founder of Cetus, former Board Member Neutrogena) and Daphne Zohar (Follica CEO, Founder & Managing Partner of PureTech Ventures).
"Our technologies for creating and manipulating hair follicles position us to treat, and perhaps eventually cure, androgenetic alopecia, other hair loss conditions, and related follicular disorders such as acne," said Dr. Rox Anderson, Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Co- founder and Scientific Advisory Board Chair of Follica. Anderson invented and developed laser hair removal and infrared confocal laser microscopy, and has made important contributions to photodynamic therapy and tattoo removal.
About InterWest Partners:
InterWest Partners (www.interwest.com), founded in 1979, is a leading diversified venture capital firm focused on building long-term relationships with entrepreneurs and portfolio companies. Currently investing its ninth fund (IW IX), a $600 million fund, InterWest has raised more than $2 billion of capital since inception. InterWest has fifteen investing partners in Menlo Park, CA, and Dallas, TX, who bring together deep domain knowledge in life sciences and information technology.
The firm's investments in life sciences include: Aspreva Pharmaceuticals Corporation (ASPV), Corixa (CRXA; acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, GSK), Epicor Medical (acquired by Saint Jude Medical, STJ), Inspire Pharmaceuticals (ISPH), IntraLase (ILSE; acquired by Advanced Medical Optics, EYE), Myogen (MYOG; acquired by Gilead, GILD), Spinal Dynamics (acquired by Medtronic, MDT) and TheraSense (THER; acquired by Abbott Labs, ABT).
Follica Inc., a privately held medical device company, was co-founded by PureTech Ventures and a group of world renowned experts in hair follicle biology and medicine. In addition to hair loss, Follica has intellectual property and development programs in various skin and follicle related indications. www.follicabio.com
About PureTech Ventures
PureTech Ventures is a Boston-based venture creation firm specializing in translating breakthrough research from top tier academic institutions into therapies that will impact human health. PureTech's Partners include entrepreneurs and leaders from the top echelon of pharma, biotech and academia including Dr. Ronald Cape (founder, Cetus), Dr. Robert Langer (renowned MIT professor), Dr. Frank Douglas (former Chief Scientific Officer, Aventis), Dr. Bennett Shapiro (former EVP Worldwide Basic and External Research, Merck), and Dr. John Zabriskie (former CEO Pharmacia & Upjohn), and Daphne Zohar (PureTech Founder and Managing Partner).
SOURCE Follica Inc.