Pelage Closes $16.8M Series A Round

Pelage Closes $16.8M Series A Round

Westwood-based Pelage Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical-stage regenerative medicine company pioneering a new generation of treatments for hair loss, recently announced that it had closed a $16.8 million series A financing round led by Mountain View-based Google Ventures. 

Simultaneously the company announced it has completed a Phase 1 clinical trial of its lead drug candidate and hired Qing Yu Christina Weng as its chief medical officer.

Pelage was founded six years ago by a trio of UCLA researchers with a technology to reactivate hair growth in people with hair loss, including pattern baldness.

“What we’ve observed is that in people who experience hair loss, the actual hair follicle stem cells are still present but have reverted to a dormant state,” said William Lowry, one of the UCLA researchers and the company’s scientific co-founder. “We have uncovered a small molecule able to stimulate cellular metabolism to reawaken hair follicle stem cells and spur new hair growth.” 

That finding led to the development of the drug, which goes by the placeholder name of PP 405. The drug is applied topically; it is initially aimed at those with pattern baldness and who have lost hair due to chemotherapy.

While many drugs have been developed over the last several decades to treat hair loss, Pelage’s drug was apparently unique and initially effective enough to attract the attention of Google Ventures and other investors, including Santa Monica-based Main Street Advisors, Newport Beach-based Visionary Ventures and San Francisco-based YK BioVentures.

“Pelage is pioneering an innovative approach with the potential to disrupt the treatment landscape, moving beyond agents that merely slow the progression of hair loss to a treatment solution that actually helps to regrow hair,” Cathy Friedman, executive venture partner with Google Ventures and a Pelage board member, said in the announcement.

The company also said it had completed its Phase 1 clinical trial, the first round of clinical trials designed to assess the safety of a drug candidate. 

The results were promising enough to allow Pelage to move on to Phase 2, a somewhat broader clinical trial to gauge the drug’s effectiveness. The money raised through the Series A financing will help pay for this next round of clinical trials.

“With the support of Google Ventures, Main Street Advisors and other top-tier investors, we expect to advance our lead program to a Phase 2a clinical trial in the second half of this year,” said Chief Executive Daniel Gil.

Weng, who began her role as Pelage’s chief medical officer in January, has been a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and continues to practice there on a part-time basis. She will help guide the company through the upcoming Phase 2 clinical trial, which is often the make-or-break point for small pharma companies and their drug candidates.

“The current therapeutic landscape (for treating hair loss) is dominated by reformulations of existing products,” Weng said in the company’s announcement. “I am thrilled to work with the Pelage team to advance this discovery in pursuit of a novel non-invasive solution for all people who experience hair loss.”


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