Hair-raising deal: Malvern biopharm firm acquires company targeting male pattern baldness

Aclaris Therapeutics Inc., in welcome news for the estimated two-thirds of American men who experience some amount of hair loss by age 35, is making a more aggressive move into the hair loss treatment business.

The Chester County specialty pharmaceutical company entered into a deal Monday to acquire Vixen Pharmaceuticals, which gives it access to a experimental treatment being studied for male and female pattern baldness.

Vixen Pharmaceuticals holds intellectual property rights, obtained from Columbia University, that cover the uses of certain Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitor compounds for the treatment of alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia [female or male pattern baldness] and other dermatological conditions.

The Vixen deal follows up a November deal when Aclaris’ wholly owned subsidiary, Aclaris Therapeutics International Ltd., entered into a license agreement for related technology with JAKPharm and Key Organics.

Neal Walker, the president and CEO of Aclaris (NASDAQ: ACRS) in Malvern, Pa., said the Vixen deal, along with the one last year, will allow Alcaris to broaden its focus in the hair loss treatment arena. “With this expansion of our pipeline, we continue to pursue our core strategy of developing and commercializing self-pay aesthetic and medical dermatology products for which there is a significant unmet need, Walker said.
Financial terms of the Vixen deal were not disclosed. Aclaris has agreed to make an undisclosed upfront payment and various development and commercial milestone payments to Vixen shareholders, as well as additional payments on potential sales of products using the acquired intellectual property rights.

The discovery of the relationship between JAK inhibition and hair loss was made by a team of researchers at Columbia University led by Dr. Angela M. Christiano.
“Aclaris has made a strong commitment to research and development for hair disorders, and we look forward to Aclaris bringing JAK inhibitors to the clinic,” said Christiano, a co-founder of Vixen, in a prepared statement.


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