Updated on October 29, 2017
RiverTown Therapeutics Inc. Clinical Update
I’ve had many readers inquire lately about the current progress of RiverTown Therapeutics Inc.’s RT1640. RTI’s therapy for hair regeneration, RT1640, is a topical medication composed of minoxidil, cyclosporine A, and a novel molecule called RT175. The company debuted some impressive hair growth photos on this site last year. The question that’s been on a lot of people’s minds since then – “how’s things coming along at RiverTown?” I recently caught up with David Weinstein MD PhD, the CSO/CMO of RiverTown Therapeutics Inc. to give you all a clearer picture of what they’ve been working on and what the future may look like for this company of interest.
Q&A with David Weinstein MD PhD
FT: When/where is the next clinical trial for RT1640 taking place?
DW: We are currently negotiating a Phase 2 trial in Australia. The Australian government has made a concerted and focused effort to enhance the biotechnology effort in their nation. To that end, they have made it both easy and very cost-effective to carryout trials there by granting very liberal tax incentives and R&D rebates to small companies. We will let you how these negotiations progress.
DW: Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. Like most autoimmune diseases, the underlying etiology is unclear. We know that this is a systemic disease, in which T cells recognize elements of the hair follicle as being foreign, and attack them, resulting in lots of inflammation and hair loss. We also know that people with one autoimmune disease are more prone than others to develop additional autoimmune disorders, and that this is particularly true when the first disease is very active and there is a lot of inflammation. While I believe that RT1640 will induce additional hair growth, I am concerned that such growth will provide “fuel” for the underlying autoimmunity, and “rev”up the system, resulting in more inflammation. As a physician, my first priority is to do no harm. I am concerned that growing hair in patients with alopecia areata will do harm as I described. Therefore, we have no plans to explore this indication.
Having said this, we have some preliminary evidence that RT1640 treatment does restore hair growth in the setting of taxane-induced “permanent alopecia.” These are people that have been treated with taxane drugs to treat cancers- usually breast cancers- and have suffered what has been thought to be an irreversible alopecia. More on this as we learn more.
FT: Will RT1604 be effective on areas of the scalp other than the crown, such as the frontal scalp/hairline?
DW: The distribution of androgenic alopecia is a function of two factors: the concentration of androgen receptors (ARs) and the concentration of the testosterone to DHT conversion enzyme 5AR. There is good evidence that the areas with the highest degree of androgenic alopecia are the areas with the highest concentrations of both ARs and 5AR. Unfortunately, these tend to be at the temple and the crown. We have not studied the effects of RT1640 in enough people to say for sure, however, our anecdotal evidence suggests that our therapy will regrow hair at the temple, and on the crown for certain.
DW: Recent work from Dr. Lu Le the University of Texas has shown that the transcription factor krox20 expressed by cells in the hair follicle is essential for the growth of new hair. Throughout my career I have studied another transcription factor, called Oct6. In every tissue we have ever found Oct6 expression, it is closely associated with the expression of krox20. In fact, krox20 expression is dependent upon cells first expressing Oct6. Our work shows that treatment with RT1640 strongly induces Oct 6 expression. This finding supports our hypothesis that RT1640 treatment induces molecular changes in the hair follicle that drive new hair growth.
Thank you David, for taking the time.