During the past few months, there have been a few new companies entering the hair regeneration sector, but none have impressed me and I have limited my coverage of all those companies to small sections within my once a month “brief items of interest” posts. Today, I learnt about yet another new entrant into the field named HairClone that I felt finally warranted its own post (albeit barely). I still have some serious doubts about this company (would be shocked if they come out with anything substantial in the next 5 years) and do not consider them anywhere near as important to us as the established entities such as the RIKEN/Kyocera/Tsuji partnership (Japan) or the Shiseido/Replicel partnership (Japan). I will briefly analyze this new company via positives and negatives:
- The renowned and widely respected researcher Dr. Claire Higgins joined HairClone’s advisory board on August 30th (but alse read my comment on her in the “Negatives” section below).
Very excited to welcome Claire Higgins onto our SAB! Claire’s work on dermal papilla cells will be of great help pic.twitter.com/B7ZKhbbHkv
— HairClone (@HairClone) August 30, 2016
- HairClone will be hiring more scientific advisers besides Dr. Claire Higgins in the near future. Would be great if they tried to get Dr. Roland Lauster into the team.
- A recent Tweet suggests monthly update meetings with PhD students:
Great first monthly update meeting with Manchester University Doctoral Training Centre in Regen Med. students. Very good questions.
— HairClone (@HairClone) August 17, 2016
- HairClone has devised a very unique and creative way to get funding (not necessarily a positive in many people’s minds) and that includes: crowdfunding; giving people who fund the company’s research preference when the actual treatment comes out; allowing investment in equity; offering leading hair transplant clinics around the world membership opportunities; and most interesting of all, hair follicle banking and storage. On a somewhat related note, if you are having a baby, consider cord blood storage if you have the financial wherewithal.
- By far the biggest negative is that this is still way too early in the game and who knows when trials will commence, and whether the company will succeed with its dermal papilla focused cloning technology in the first place. Or even if they manage to get sufficient funding.
- Related to the above, when Solomon interviewed Dr. Claire Higgins earlier this year, she generally sounded pessimistic about new treatments and said the following about cloning (Update: Solomon corrected me in the comments and said she was only talking about cell injections here….but I think in general she sounded pessimistic about the hair cloning time frame in the whole interview):
“I think the future (but it’s not in 4 years or 5 years away, it’s like in 20 years) is to promote direct conversion of fibroblasts into papillae. But something like this will take decades. We don’t know how to do that yet.”
I am hoping that Dr Higgins will change her prediction to 10 years if her lab (only two years old at the time of the interview) and research work gets significantly more resources as a result of HairClone. Thankfully she said that she was not exactly sure about Dr. Tsuji’s work and neither did she list Shiseido’s trials in Japan in her list of ongoing trial examples, so maybe she is just entirely focused on her own work and not following others too much. 20 years would be too big a gamble to invest in a company such as HairClone, and I hope Dr. Bessam Farjo has other ideas and is hoping for much faster completion of clinical trials. And of course he is probably not just relying on Dr. Higgins’ dermal papilla related work.