There has been another exciting development in the race to develop a safe and effective treatment for the forms of autoimmune hair loss
which currently have none.
Emerging field-leader, the American biopharmaceutical company Aclaris Therapeutics, Inc has announced the latest win in its exclusive partnership with Columbia University, New York: the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 9,895,301.
Tofacitinib for hair growth and hair loss
The United States 301 Patent, No. 9,895,301, is owned by The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York and contains 67 claims in total.
These cover employing the janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor drug tofacitinib
as a treatment for various phenotypes of Alopecia Areata
, as well as for Androgenetic Alopecia - the genetic hair loss conditions more commonly known as Male Pattern Baldness
and Female Pattern Hair Loss
Tofacitinib is also known by the brand name Xeljanz
; the oral form of this drug is currently approved for use as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
The patent wording specifies that it has been granted for the use of tofactinib in 'inducing hair growth and for treating hair loss disorders'. It expires in November 2031.
When Alopecia Areata
is present in any form, it causes sudden hair loss. This can be from the scalp, the whole head or the entire body, and when - or even if - the hair growth cycle will resume, is unable to be predicted. However, in its most mild, scalp-only form, it often tends to right itself within up to 12 months. Although the condition's mechanisms are largely unknown, triggers are known to include stress
in the form of sudden shock or trauma, allergies and there is also thought to be a genetic element.
Building hair loss treatment patent portfolio
JAK inhibitor drugs effectively work with the body's immune and inflammatory responses, via the JAK-STAT pathway, and have been at the forefront of innovations in the hairloss treatment industry for a number of years. However, these medications - both oral and topical - are still involved in the lengthy clinical trial process necessary to ensure they are safe, effective for their stated use, and can be well-tolerated by patients, before they go in front of the relevant medical regulatory boards - such as the MHRA and FDA
- for licensing and approval.
Columbia University boasts one of America's top medical research institutions; its team has worked consistently over the past few years to explore the suite of JAK inhibitor drugs as potential treatments for hair loss, particularly in relation to the currently untreatable types: Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis
. These conditions are extreme forms of the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata and cause total baldness of the head and from head-to-toe respectively.
Whilst scalp-only Alopecia Areata
can often be treated - at Belgravia
this approach involves topical applications of high strength minoxidil
- these more severe phenotypes have no notably effective treatment options available… yet.
By negotiating exclusive licensing agreements with the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, who have been granted a raft of patents
pertaining to their JAK inhibitor hair loss drug discoveries, Aclaris has been building an ever-growing intellectual patent portfolio in this area. The fact that, if JAK inhibition succeeds it may be the first medically-approved treatment for autoimmune alopecia, perfectly aligns with the brand's stated mission to address 'significant unmet needs in medical and aesthetic dermatology'.
This latest patent follows a number of issuances in relation to the use of specific JAK inhibitor drugs and methods of drug delivery for the treatment of hair loss disorders. These include the drugs ruxolitinib, baricitinib, and decernotinib, as well as what Aclaris refers to as its 'product candidates' ATI-501
(formerly ATI-50001) and ATI-502
Aclaris are currently in what appears to be a two-horse race to develop the first JAK inhibitor hairloss treatments, with Concert Pharmaceuticals. The latter having been granted FDA Fast-Track
status in relation to their work in developing a treatment for Alopecia Totalis and Universalis given the unmet needs of people affected. Pharmaceutical titan Pfizer
is also conducting clinical hair loss research involving JAK inhibitors.
Although a confirmed timeline for the potential release of these treatments has not been revealed as yet, it is estimated that the first JAK inhibitor treatments for alopecia may be available for doctors to prescribe as early as 2020.
It is believed that versions to treat male and female pattern hair loss should follow some time after the initial Alopecia Areata releases. As there are already clinically-proven genetic hair loss treatments
available for both men and women, it is likely that developing JAK inhibition-based solutions for these conditions is considered less urgent.