In my first post on Follicum in 2015, I mentioned how the Swedish company had pre-clinical trials for its hair loss product conducted by contract research organization Dabur Research Foundation (DRF) in India. Around a month ago I contacted DRF with some questions. The company’s vice president of R&D was kind enough to reply to all of them. Interview is below, with bolded parts being the most interesting for us in my opinion.
Hi Dr. Singh,
I am not sure how many of the questions below you can answer, but even a few would be great.
1) You said that you have been involved in the hair biology sector for 15 years. During that time, how many companies or other entities have you conducted research for that were involved in the hair loss industry in some capacity or other? I assume most or all of those were developing an oral or topical product for hair loss?
In the last 15 years Dabur Research Foundation has worked with more than 40 companies that were working on hair loss and hair growth promoters. Yes, these companies are working on both topical oral products, though a larger number are focused on development of topical products.
2) If you answered the above question, what portion of your hair research related clients were from developed countries? Are there companies in India that have worked with you in the hair biology sector?
We found a lot of interest and focus on hair biology in Scandinavian countries as well as in Europe. In India we have worked with biotechnology focused start ups that are developing novel targeted molecules for hair loss.
3) What makes a company (e.g., Follicum) that is based in a developed country decide to use your services rather than use the services of local research organizations with which they can have daily in-person communication? Is the primary benefit a lower cost?
I believe that cost may play a role, but the decision to work with us is perhaps based on the long years of experience in this field. The models in hair loss/hair growth need to be highly quantitative in nature so that the leads that have the highest probability of working in humans can be fast tracked. We have invested in early years in development of these robust, quantitative & predictable models for hair growth. I believe that this is the strength that we bring to our partners.
4) During the 15 years that you have been doing work on hair biology, have you seen any significant trend that would indicate that a new drug(s) to treat hair loss is very close? We have had no major publicly available drugs to treat hair loss other than Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia) in all these decades. Nothing new in the last 15 years other than Dutasteride (Avodart), but that is not officially approved to treat hair loss. Are you optimistic that at least one of the companies that you have worked with will bring to market something groundbreaking in the near future for us hair loss sufferers? Are we close to stopping and perhaps even reversing hair loss with a drug?
The more we learn of the multiple pathways causing hair loss, more likely we are to find a good product. Hair loss is multifactorial, so developing products that modulate all or most of the key pathways and targets should be the goal. I am confident that these approaches will bring new effective hair growth promoters in the next 3-5 years.
5) Can you provide us with names of some companies or institutions that you have worked with in the hair loss research arena over the past 15 years? I just know about Follicum.
I am sorry, we enter into a confidentiality agreement with each of our collaborators and currently I am not at liberty to disclose names.
6) Will you ever be conducting human trials in India?
Yes in near future, we intend to test a novel hair growth promoter developed by us in the clinics.
7) Have you heard about the new regulations in Japan that speed up clinical trials (essentially, you get to skip what we refer to as final Stage 3 trials in the US)?
Sorry, please tell me more about this.
8) What portion of your hair loss related research has been in vivo versus in vitro? When it comes to in vivo testing, are mice the only animals that you use for work in the hair biology sector?
Over the years we have built expertise in both in vitro as well as in vivo models for quantitation of hair growth. Our approach is to minimize the usage of animals & at the early stages use in vitro alternatives like hair papilla cultures.
Anu T. Singh Ph.D
Vice President (R&D)
Dabur Research Foundation