Researchers find 29 genetic variants in people with acne that could lead to new treatments

Acne treatment commercials typically zero in on the blackheads, whiteheads and pimples that populate the face and other parts of the body to emphasize why a consumer would want to treat the skin condition. Now, researchers say they've zeroed in on 29 genes that put people at risk for the skin condition and the findings could chart a path to new treatments.

Researchers scanned the whole genomes of more than 20,000 people who had acne and compared that dataset to nearly 596,000 people who did not. The study turned up 29 new genetic variants that are more common in people with acne, researchers reported this month in Nature Communications. The findings derive from researchers at St. John’s Institute of Dermatology, King’s College London and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

The study also confirmed 14 of 17 variants already known to be harbingers of the skin condition, which brings the new total to 46. With the new variant findings, clinicians might also be able to determine whether a patient is at higher risk of severe disease, the researchers said. 

“Despite major treatment advances in other skin conditions, progress in acne has been limited. As well as suffering from the symptoms of acne, individuals describe consequent profound, negative impacts on their psychological and social wellbeing," said Catherine Smith, professor of dermatology and therapeutics at St John's Institute of Dermatology, in a statement

RELATED: Sanofi snaps up Origimm for early-phase acne vaccine, opening new front in mRNA strategy

The acne market has caught the eyes of Big Pharmas like Sanofi, which acquired Origimm Biotechnology in December 2021 to bring an investigational acne vaccine under its fold. Sanofi will use a messenger RNA platform in a phase 1/2 trial next year to build on Origimm's research into the role of Cutibacterium in acne. 

AnaptysBio is among other biotechs investigating acne treatments. The company's anti-IL-36R drug failed a midstage test in a rare inflammatory disorder in March 2021, but the company is moving the drug forward in patients with acne and other immuno-dermatology conditions.