From cancer to wrinkles: beauty-care lures biotechs

Drug development can take 10 years and $1 billion. "In beauty products, there's less regulatory risk, no clinical-development risk, and a very much shorter time to market."

Luxury skin-care is a $1.2 billion market in the U.S., and it’s grown about 20 percent in each of the last two years. Cosmetics companies have traditionally ruled this domain, but now veterans of pharmaceutical firms are using their knowledge to grab a piece. Bloomberg Business reports.

“It seems like there’s a never-ending appetite for beauty products,” says Les Funtleyder, research director at private equity firm Poliwogg. “For drug development, it’s 7 to 10 years from clinic to market -- and a lot of money, up to $1 billion. In beauty products, there’s less regulatory risk, no clinical-development risk, and a very much shorter time to market.”

A few years ago Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, the chief executive officer of Regulus Therapeutics -- a biopharmaceutical company developing cancer and atherosclerosis drugs -- created a separate company, Senté, to launch a line of skin-care products.

“I was thinking, ‘How can we take the rigor of high-end science and apply that not to drugs, but what we call life-enhancing consumer products that aren’t regulated by the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]?’ ” he explains. The scientist sees a big market catering to middle-aged women (and, increasingly, men) who want to combat sagging skin and undereye circles.

Senté executives licensed a compound that had been sold at higher concentrations for wound and burn care. The new product is selling at $75 for 15ml, and according to the company, addresses age-related loss of skin elasticity and tone.

Living Proof, a line of hair products, is another example of a beauty brand with a pharmaceutical history. It was founded by Polaris Venture Partners, the venture capital firm behind Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, which makes a recently approved drug for irritable bowel syndrome. A main ingredient includes a light, water-resistant polymer, and the product’s formulation came about with the help of biotech and cancer researchers.

[Via Bloomberg Businessweek]

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