Updated on January 5, 2018
LEO Science & Tech Hub: Alopecia Areata Research
Located within the biotech cluster which is Cambridge, Massachusetts sits a contemporary R&D platform, the LEO Science & Tech Hub. The Science & Tech Hub is an innovation unit of the international dermatology-focused LEO Pharma company. The Tech Hub seeks to engage with and bolster new technology which may offer solutions to dermatological and other medical needs. I was drawn to look further into the Science & Tech Hub after learning about: its work in the area of Alopecia Areata, and the open engagement model which the hub offers.
The model implemented by the LEO S&TH is straightforward, yet innovative and refreshing. They are openly seeking engagement from academic institutions, researchers, or entrepreneurs with promising technology/ideas to offer, in return, potential partnership or other means of help in developing said assets. From their website: “…we are able to offer various means of support like e.g. venture investment, co-development, access to LEO Pharma’s preclinical and clinical expertise as well as – through LEO Pharma’s Centers of Research Excellence (CoRE) – our global network of clinicians and dermatology key opinion leaders.” So, if you’ve got a potential treatment for skin diseases including Androgenic Alopecia/Alopecia Areata, or you just want to read more, visit the Engage with Us page on the LEO S&TH website.
Currently, there are several interesting partners working with the LEO Science & Tech Hub. Among them, Novopyxis is developing a drug-delivery device aimed at treating Alopecia Areata. The technology is described as a “hand held aerosol device” designed to administer deep penetration of topical treatments into the skin. This would potentially nullify the use of painful needle injections to deliver therapeutics or steroid injections. Another startup working with the S&TH, Elektrofi, is also developing drug delivery solutions. Elektrofi’s technology seeks to administer high doses of antibody-based therapies in small volume within seconds. Apparently, antibody formulations become mostly unusable at high concentrations due to high viscosity. This new approach could present a solution. To create these formulations Elektrofi utilizes a novel therapeutic microparticle suspension system dubbed “Elektroject.”
It sounds like there will be many interesting developments to come from the LEO Science & Tech Hub. I personally find the advancement of drug delivery a fascinating subject, mainly because of all the potential applications it has. I wanted to find out a bit more on the progress of LEO’s efforts at treating AA and the potential of a program for AGA, so I reached out to the Vice President of the LEO Science & Tech Hub, Michael Sierra. Michael was kind enough to offer some further commentary about LEO’s work in alopecia below.
Q&A with Michael Sierra, VP of LEO Science & Tech Hub:
FT: How did the LEO Science & Tech Hub come to be and what is your role there?
MS: The LEO Science & Tech Hub was established as LEO Pharma’s R&D
breakthrough innovation arm. We are dedicated to identifying, developing,
and funding innovative solutions that improve the lives of people with
skin diseases. It was founded in 2016 as a catalyst to transform
cutting-edge science and disruptive technologies into solutions for
improving the lives of people with skin diseases by collaborating,
exploring and investing in breakthrough innovations. We currently have
investments in startups and research collaborations with many academic
institutions including MGH, BWH and Mt. Sinai. We are an agile group of
scientific experts with an entrepreneurial mindset and a vision of how to
give patients control over their skin disease by monitoring, diagnosing,
and predicting their disease and flares. If we are able to predict, we can
prevent disease rather than just treating the symptoms. The LEO Science &
Tech Hub is based in Kendall Square, Cambridge (USA).
FT: What is the status of LEO Science & Tech Hub’s program for Alopecia
MS: The LEO Science & Tech Hub sponsors the NAAF, so we are very involved in identifying new potential opportunities to treat the disease. The current
programs for Alopecia Areata are being developed by LEO Pharma’s R&D
organization which the LEO Science & Tech Hub is a part. LEO Pharma will
continue clinical trials for topical drug development of, for example, JAK
inhibitors for AA and we are also looking into developing systemic
treatments with biologics.
FT: How are things coming along for your new startup Novopyxis?
MS: We have an active collaboration with the startup with the aim of
progressing their device development. We did have a board meeting last
week and things are going as expected. Unfortunately, we are not able to
comment on this any further due to the nature of the agreement.
FT: Is there also a program at the Science & Tech Hub for Androgenic
Alopecia? Any current drug candidates?
MS: At the present time we are focused in Alopecia Areata, Universalis and
Totalis. Which are driven by an autoimmune inflammation. As we gain more
information on the disease and the drivers of disease, we may identify
opportunities/technologies that will permit us to identify treatments for
hair growth for Androgenic Alopecia. We currently have not identified any
drug candidates but are always looking for new opportunities.
FT: Anything else you’d like to share or think my readers should know at
MS: LEO understands the severe impact of AA on quality of life and we are
committed to continue our discussions with NAAF and AA patients to
strengthening our understanding of patient needs and how we can develop
new valuable treatments.
LEO engages in developing Patient Reported Outcome assessments tools
because we recognize the importance of showing patient benefits of
treatment to establish the critical need to improve patient access to
LEO recognizes the large unmet medical need for effective and safe
treatments for both adult and pediatric AA patients.
Thank you Michael, for speaking with us.