Nascent biotech firms Sequana Therapeutics and AlopexPharmaceuticals Inc. have formed a collaboration to map genesfor both common baldness (androgenetic alopecia) andabnormal hair growth.

Sequana chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Kinsellasaid the goal of the collaboration is "to understand the specificgenetic factors associated with both common baldness andexcessive hair growth. In doing so, we hope to identify newmolecular targets for the discovery of drugs that prevent ortreat the most common causes of hair loss."

Under the agreement, Sequana will sequence both mouse andhuman genes associated with abnormal hair growth and Alopexwill then use the molecular targets identified by Sequana todevelop therapeutics to modulate hair growth. The financialterms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

This is La Jolla, Calif.-based Sequana's third partnership forgene mapping. Two weeks ago the company announced anagreement with Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Researchof San Antonio, Texas, for mapping baboon genes associatedwith osteoporosis, and in June it signed an agreement with TheJackson Laboratory of Bar Harbor, Maine, for mapping genemutations associated with mouse obesity.

Sequana, founded in June, and Alopex, founded in April, areutilizing their specific areas of expertise to form partnershipswith established institutions. Alopex, based in Ridgewood, N.J.,is developing compounds based on its understanding of thebiology of the hair follicle. It is negotiating collaborations withseveral other biotechnology companies and about half a dozenacademic institutions.

In addition, Alopex Chairman Joel Newman told BioWorld thatthe company is talking to the top five companies involved in"cosmeceuticals;" products to improve appearance and qualityof life, particularly retinoids. He said Alopex's goal is toestablish a broad partnership with one of these companies.

Alopex's core research and development programs are focusedon compounds that treat disorders associated with the follicleitself, specifically andro-genetic alopecia, telogen effluvium andalopecia areata. Alopex is also developing products to down-regulate the hair follicle for the elimination of undesired hair.The company plans to have its first product in clinical trials by1994.

Alopex is using the "hair cycle" as a model system forelucidating the basic control mechanisms of both apoptosis(programmed cell death) and metastasis. The company intendsto expand into developing drugs to enhance wound healing (bystem cell modulation) and therapeutics for oncology andmetastatic disease.

Alopex was formed with $1 million in seed capital raised byAvalon Ventures, which also raised funds for Sequana. Avalonmanaging partner Kevin Kinsella is a close friend of Newman's.Newman, who has a background in clinical medicine, waspreviously an analyst at Solomon Brothers Inc. and First BostonCorp. He co-founded Alopex with Kinsella and Arthur Bertolino,the company's director of research and development, who isalso director of New York Medical Center's hair consultationunit. Newman said Alopex will seek another round of financingin October and plans to raise $5 to $8 million.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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