Is a New Medical Treatment for Hair Loss On the Way?
Millions in New Funds Give JAK Inhibitors Much Needed Boost
Does Wall Street Believe a New Medical Treatment for Hair Loss May Be on the Way?
It isn’t often that we look to Wall Street for help in predicting which scientific advances related to hair loss are worth our time and attention. Of particular interest to our hair loss surgeon and all of us here at Arocha Hair Restoration is recent investment activity related to one particular company involved in learning about how certain Janus Kinase inhibitors might contribute to hair growth. The company is Aclaris Therapeutics.
Those who follow this blog and keep track of research into potential medical treatments for hair loss may have already heard of Janus Kinase inhibitors, which are commonly known as JAK inhibitors. We previously posted, “Research Into Immunosuppressant Drugs to Regrow Hair Raises Concerns,” about concerns in the medical community stemming from research at Columbia University Medical Center examining the impact of JAK inhibitors on hair regrowth. Even though JAK inhibitors appear to wake up slumbering hair follicles, we urged caution:
“Drugs that suppress the activity of the immune system (immunosuppressant drugs) typically have serious side effects, including liver damage, infections, blood problems and other health issues.”
Granted, these drugs aren’t new by any stretch. Both ruxolitinib and tofacitinib, the two drugs used in the Columbia University study, already are in use for other health issues. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already approved them for the treatment of blood diseases and rheumatoid arthritis. To date, the research has primarily revolved around potential treatment for alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease.
It has been nearly nine months since Dr. Angela M. Christiano and her team at Columbia University Medical Center issued an update on their observations in the paper, “Pharmacologic inhibition of JAK-STAT signaling promotes hair growth,” in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. For those who prefer a simplified overview, we recommend the news release from the University, “Blocking Enzymes in Hair Follicles Promotes Hair Growth.”
So why are we posting about this now? Rumblings out of Wall Street caught our attention in recent weeks. In particular, this line from the announcement, “Aclaris Therapeutics Announces $20.0 Million Private Placement”:
“Net proceeds from this offering are expected to be used to fund research and development, including new JAK inhibitor programs for androgenetic alopecia (also known as male or female pattern baldness)…”
In March, the company acquired Dr. Christiano’s intellectual property in a deal with Vixen Pharmaceuticals. The announcement of that deal, “Aclaris Therapeutics (ACRS) to Acquire Vixen Pharma and Rights to Intellectual Property for Potential Treatment for Hair Loss,” stated:
“Aclaris acquired worldwide rights to intellectual property licensed to Vixen by Columbia University covering the use of certain Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitor compounds for the treatment of alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia and other dermatological conditions.”
Last November, Aclaris entered into a licensing deal with JAKPharm and Key Organics, acquiring the worldwide right to JAK3 inhibitor compounds for the treatment of hair loss.
Now the injection of $20 million of new funds will enable the company to dig further into whether JAK inhibitors can slow or even reverse hair loss related to male or female pattern baldness. And we should all learn more about the side effects as well. Prior to the new funding being secured, Dr. Christiano said that having Aclaris involved gives researchers a big boost:
“Aclaris has made a strong commitment to research and development for hair disorders, and we look forward to Aclaris bringing JAK inhibitors to the clinic…”
What does all this mean? The inclusion of androgenic alopecia in Aclaris’ statements and its financial commitment clearly indicates company executives believe they may be able to eventually come to market with another medical treatment for people experiencing hair loss.
Today, there are only two FDA-approved treatments for hair loss. One is topical minoxidil, marketed under the brand name Rogaine, which is the most common treatment offered for many types of hair loss. Finasteride, marketed under the brand names Propecia or Proscar, is the other. Interestingly, minoxidil also was invented for something completely unrelated to hair loss. It was developed as an ingestible blood-pressure medicine that happened to regrow hair as a side effect.
While these are certainly interesting developments, it is important to be realistic about the likely timeline for these efforts to bear fruit. Even drugs that are approved for other uses must go through an exhaustive FDA approval process to determine:
- Whether the drug has the effect it is supposed to have.
- How much of the drug to give to a patient and how often.
- What side effects are associated with the drug and how they can best be managed.
- How a drug is broken down in the body and how long it stays in the body.
- Which foods, drinks, or other drugs can be used at the same time or should be avoided.
- Clinical trial results allow the FDA to make decisions about whether or not a drug should be approved for marketing.
We congratulate Dr. Christiano and the leadership of Aclaris for their successes to date and will keep the community updated as developments occur.
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