Follicum Develops Direct-to-Scalp Formulation of FOL-005

I have covered Swedish company Follicum numerous times on this blog in the past, including twice already earlier this year. The company is developing a topical scalp hair stimulation product called FOL-005 that is based on the human protein osteopontin. Interestingly, a variation of this same drug will likely be developed by Follicum in order to reduce body hair. Side note: see my post on excessive body hair in men and its correlation with scalp hair loss.

Of the numerous companies in the world that are developing a treatment or cure for hair loss, Follicum is currently the most professional when it comes to its communications and its product development strategy. Their clinical trial time-frames for each stage have generally been accurate over the past few years, and they seem to be on schedule to continue to hit targets over the next year.

Follicum Milestone

Earlier today, I got an e-mail from Follicum notifying me of their achieving a major milestone. The company has now successfully developed a direct-to-scalp topical formulation for their FOL-005 hair stimulation drug. This will in the near future replace their current method of delivery (intradermal injections) of FOL-005.

This newly developed formulation has been shown to be stable when it comes to long-term storage. The company plans to optimize it for large-scale manufacturing.

According to CEO Jan Alenfall, Follicum’s extensive experience in developing peptide drugs has enabled them to develop a stable formulation that delivers FOL-005 directly to the hair follicle.

Follicum Advisory Board

While browsing through Follicum’s website today, I also noticed that their scientific advisory board page seems to have been updated recently. They now have a highly respectable and accomplished group of advisers, many of whom have been covered on this blog in the past. The most well known of these in the hair loss world are Dr. Gerd Lindner (Germany), Dr. Ralf Paus (UK/Germany), Dr Ulrike Blume-Peytavi (Germany) and Dr. Amos Golhar (Israel).

If all continues to go well in Phase II trials, it is not out of the question that Follicum’s hair growth product could be released around the end of 2020 (maybe I am too optimistic — h/t John Doe’s comment).

Hims: Hair Loss Treatments Go Mainstream

Update: October 2, 2020 — Hims is going public via merger with Oaktree. The deal values Hims at $1.6 billion.

Hims for hair loss.
Hims for hair loss.

Hims (aka forhims)

For the past six months, I have seen an inordinately huge number of online and TV ads concerning a relatively new US-based company called Hims. The startup also goes by the name “forhims”. The direct-to-consumer company sells men’s wellness and grooming products. They have an especially keen focus on the hair loss and erectile dysfunction (Sildenafil) markets. Hims is planning to add more products in other sectors, especially in skincare.

The surprising thing is that hims only commenced operations in November 2017. Yet, they already have a global Alexa website traffic ranking of under 35,000. Their Google Trends chart for the US (ht/ HLprevention) has also been on quite an impressive continuous upwards trajectory in 2018. How on earth can such a recently formed company succeed so spectacularly? Especially considering that they still having some relatively barren pages on their website as if in Beta mode?

Of course the answer as always is money and funding. Absolutely tragic that most world renowned hair loss research scientists who are working on hair loss cures can never get this type of access to funding. In fact several scientists and companies have even been desperate enough to ask me to help them raise funds in the past.

By March 2018, hims was already valued at $200 million, and had raised $40 million in funding. All this less than four months after starting business.

Update: Shortly after I wrote this post, they raised another $50 million.

Company CEO Andrew Dudum seems to have great connections in the venture capital world. His company managed to get positive reviews in well known online publications just weeks after launch. Such favorable publicity continues to this day, and hims now has Snoop Dogg on board.

Hims and Hair Loss

One of the main consumer markets hims serves is the hair loss treatment sector. Their focus is on men’s hair loss products, although most of their products can also be used by women after consultation with a doctor.

Normally, I do not write about any hair loss product related company on this blog. I do not want to promote anyone for no strong reason, especially if I have not tried their products and the products are not groundbreaking. However, hims has become so big, that at this point I can not ignore them. Moreover, I am extremely glad that they are providing these products at a very low cost relative to existing vendors.

Currently, hims will give you all of the below for just $44 a month. Prescription for Finasteride is given via an online consultation. Disclaimer: I do not get any commission or advertising income from this company.

  • 30-day supply of 1-mg generic Finasteride pills.
  • 2 ounce supply of Minoxidil (I assume this will last for a month).
  • A DHT blocking shampoo.
  • 30-day supply of biotin gummies.

Not bad at all, although at this low price, I would want a lab to check the ingredients, quality and veracity of all the above products. For example, the DHT blocking shampoo page does not really list many DHT blocking ingredients at present. Moreover, it seems like one of the listed ingredients (Ketoconazole) was not in the shampoo in 2017. At least per the footnote in the Racked magazine article that I linked to earlier in this post. Instead, the shampoo had salicylic acid in it at the time. You should also check reviews and ratings for hims hair loss products before purchasing.

Despite these reservation, I am glad that after years of us consumers being gouged by crazy high prices of Finasteride and Minoxidil (even after generics version came out), this type of company is now succeeding. It represents a mini-revolution in the hair loss treatment world.

If hims were to ever come out with topical Finasteride or topical Dutasteride, I would seriously consider buying from them every month.

Keeps: Competitor

Interestingly enough, shortly after the launch of hims, a new competing company named Keeps was launched in early 2018 with significant fanfare and publicity. Unlike hims, Keeps limits its offerings exclusively to the hair loss market, and is focusing on monthly Finasteride and Minoxidil subscription plans. Keeps has obtained nowhere near the funding levels as hims, but nevertheless has still managed to get decent publicity in recent months.