For the past two decades, researchers and companies involved in the search for a hair loss cure have always been hindered by lack of sufficient funding. Promising avenues of research (e.g., read the last post’s section on Aderans and Intercytex) have had to be abandoned due to funding problems. Investors are always looking for quick returns and do not have the patience to wait for 5-10 years for oftentimes speculative animal model based research to turn into a successful commercial product release for use in humans. Many world leading hair loss research scientists such as Dr. Claire Higgins, Dr. Roland Lauster and Dr. Alexey Terskikh have complained about the lack of funding in interviews and even on Twitter.
Multi-Billion Dollar Companies Arrive to the Hair Loss World
However, this situation is now changing rapidly. Multi-billion dollar multinational companies are entering the hair loss world (usually for the first time ever) via partnerships and/or acquisitions of existing small companies that are already primarily focused in the hair loss sector. Below I list in chronological order some recent examples of multi-billion dollar corporations entering the hair loss world either 1) directly; or 2) via acquisitions; or 3) via partnerships:
- In August 2016, Histogen (US) announced that it had raised $6 million in funding from Pineworld Capital, an affiliate of Huapont Life Sciences (China). And a month later in September 2016, Histogen just updated us on the details of this China-specific collaboration. “Pineworld will focus on clinical development, registration, marketing and sales of the Hair Stimulating Complex (HSC) injectable hair growth treatment in China. Under the terms of the license, Histogen will receive milestone payments, a transfer price on the product, and escalating royalties on future sales.” Huapont Life Sciences (SHE:002004) currently has a market cap of $2.9 billion when converted from Yuan.
- In probably the most important news that has ever graced the hair loss world, in July 2016, Japanese electronics giant Kyocera announced that it was entering the hair regeneration market via a collaboration with the Japanese government-affiliated RIKEN Institute/Dr. Takashi Tsuji and Organ Technologies (Japan). As of today Kyocera (KYO) had a market cap of $18 billion.
- In June 2015, Allergan (Ireland/US) acquired US-based Kythera Biopharmaceuticals (along with its Setipiprant prostaglandin D2 antagonist product). Allergan (AGN) currently has a market cap of $94 billion.
- In May 2013, Shiseido (Japan) announced a technology transfer and collaboration agreement with Replicel (Canada). Shiseido is the world’s fifth largest cosmetics producer per wikipedia with a current market cap (TYO:4911) of $10.4 billion when converted from Yen.
- Last but not least, privately-held Samumed (optimistically valued at $12 billion). I am not sure of precisely when Samumed entered the hair loss world, but the company started clinical trials in Australia in early 2013.
- Note: Honorary mention to Aclaris Therapeutics, which has a market cap of $540 million. The company entered the hair loss world in March 2016 with the acquisition of Vixen Pharmaceuticals.
China Also Arrives, Kind of…
While Histogen’s entry into China via Pineworld Capital/Huapont Life Sciences is not a direct testament to domestic hair loss research capabilities in China, at the moment I will take anything! Hopefully this will start a new trend in China just like we have witnessed in the US and Japan in the past decade, with hair loss research proliferating at numerous centers across those countries virtually every year.
Perhaps the most surprising thing on this blog in my three plus years of writing has been the lack of anything substantial happening in China (the world’s most populous country and the world’s second largest national economy after the US). To date, the only professors that I have mentioned doing hair loss research in China are Dr. Zhi-Qi Hu and Dr. Chunyu Han (Note: I am not including any Chinese hair loss related study authors that I have mentioned in here). Mr. Liu Xuewu obviously does not count as a professional researcher, but I will mention him again in the hopes that he comes out of retirement some day soon!
Considering that the Chinese were the first at genetically modifying human embryos in 2015, it is surprising that they have not fast tracked any type of hair regrowth and cell based treatment programs. Or maybe they have and we just do not know?