Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1)

Late in 2014, I posted about Shiseido’s Adenovital product made with Adenosine in it. In fact the solid science behind this product, its popularity in Asia, and the good reputation of Shiseido all convinced me to add this product to the very short list of recommended hair loss products page on this site. While I was quite certain that this product would not be as good as Finasteride or Minoxidil for most people, I felt that it was very possible that it resulted in some new hair growth.

One of the studies in that blog post from last year suggested that Adenosine promotes the expression of several growth factors responsible for hair growth, including fibroblast growth factors FGF-7, FGF-2, insulin-like growth factor IGF-1, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

I was planning to focus more on writing about these growth factors in 2015, and lo and behold I got my first chance several weeks ago when a new company called Follicept (trademarked name) announced that it had developed a gel product that would deliver IGF-1 to the scalp and in the process bolster hair growth. I was highly skeptical about this company at the time and remain so. Even after the Bald Truth Talk forum thread on this subject took off (including some interesting posts from one of the company’s reps under the username “Follicept” whose real name is Devon), I am still far from convinced.

Update: Devon’s youtube video seems sincere and I hope he does not remove it.

For one, I am generally not a believer in new companies that are suddenly promoted enthusiastically in newspapers such as businesswire and are looking for funding/investors. Moreover, this company had not even started testing on humans at the time of the initial publicity, although they were planning to do so very soon thereafter. Also, while Follicept has some excellent material related to IGF-1 on their site in the FAQ section, I was quite surprised that one of their internal papers written by a  certain Grant Mangleburg starts of with the following sentences:

“Androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness (MPB) is a condition that affects up to 70% of men at some point during their lives. The condition is characterized by below-normal levels of androgens such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), testosterone, FSH, and sex hormone binding globulin at the dermal papillae.”

I would almost certainly say that the opposite is true… i.e., it should read “above-normal”. Am I mistaken or is this a particularly egregious typo/error as I suspect?!  I was also not impressed by the grammar and appearance of parts of their website, but perhaps I am being too picky here and should just be glad that there are more companies working on baldness treatments?

In any case, Follicept does have some things going for it. For one, the company is connected to The University of Florida and Prometheon Pharma. The company’s CEO seems very intelligent and accomplished. The Follicept product is also going to be very low-cost (comparable to the price of Rogaine), a great change from most other new products that tend to rip people off.

Most importantly, it seems like the company will not have to go through lengthy clinical trials, since IGF-1 has been used in humans for a while. In fact their are numerous studies supporting IGF-1’s beneficial properties when it comes to hair growth. So the product will quite likely be released by the end of this year as planned by the company assuming they get the funding they need. If effective, Follicept will also work for women.

One concern is that Shiseido’s Adenovital, while a very good product, never resulted in any kind of miracle result despite promoting the IGF-1 growth factor. Will Follicept be any better due to a possibly superior delivery mechanism? Can a new company that is still looking for funding produce something superior to a major established player such as Shiseido?

I am not a believer, but it seems like quite a few people on the forums and on the chat on this site have an opposing viewpoint. We are living in an age where it is increasingly easier for new players to challenge established players. e.g., Tesla versus GM/Ford/Chrysler or Uber versus Taxis or Airbnb versus hotel chains. So perhaps we will soon see more such new entrants in the hair loss world who succeed.

Kythera and Replicel Updates

Replicel’s latest presentation from BioAsia 2015 in Japan is out.  I was not planning on writing much about Replicel for a few months, but it seems like they keep making interesting presentations almost every month with some new information each time. Moreover, people in the hair loss chat on this site keep asking about Replicel.

At the start of the presentation, I liked reading the quote from Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe that was made in early 2014:

Japan is on the leading edge in regenerative medicine. We will make it possible to generate cells at private-sector factories.

Page 16-19 has most of the RCH-01 and 6-month hair growth related information.  12-month results with higher doses and frequency will likely lead to better outcomes as has been conjectured in the past.  The last part of the presentation has more details on Japan’s regenerative medicine reforms (via Abenomics related policy changes) and early-to-market reforms.

More interesting to me was this week’s news regarding Kythera Biopharmaceuticals’ ATX-101 injectable drug that reduces double chins receiving unanimous backing from an independent panel of experts.  It is thus likely that the FDA will approve this product in the next several months, and if effective, it could in some cases become a better alternative to liposuction.  In fact ATX-101 (brand name Kybella) would be the first ever drug to be approved by the FDA to reduce localized fat deposits.  This company’s stock price movement is definitely worth following.

The main reason I found this news interesting is because just over a month ago, Kythera Biopharmaceuticals acquired global rights to Setipiprant, a PGD2 antagonist.  According the company’s highly informative 2013 annual report and per various parts of the company’s website, it seems like hair and fat are two of the main areas in which Kythera will be focusing on in the coming years, with an overall focus on the human face.  The company has a long-term goal of becoming a major player in the aesthetics industry.

For those interested, Kythera has an investor conference call and webcast later today at 4:30 pm ET.