Fargo tech companies connected to experimental anti-aging techniqueIf all goes well, the technology developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins could be available to consumers in several years. And if the Food and Drug Administration approves the treatment, it could be made in Fargo by Aldevron, a local biotechnology firm.
By: Patrick Springer, The Forum
Backers call it Gene Facelift.
The idea is to use gene therapy, administered by a topical cream, as a way to reduce wrinkles, regenerate collagen and restore aging skin.
If all goes well, the technology developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins could be available to consumers in several years.
And if the Food and Drug Administration approves the treatment, it could be made in Fargo by Aldevron, a local biotechnology firm.
“We’re really pioneering the space,” says Dr. Joe Pergolizzi of Gene Facelift. “This really is the next generation of skin care.”
Gene Facelift has shown encouraging results in healing wounds in animal tests.
It also has been shown to thicken skin. If it has the same effect on people, its developers say, it could be a treatment to combat aging skin.
The cream would be applied only occasionally, likely once or twice a year, following microderm abrasion treatments that could be given by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, says Dr. Aaron Tabor, another Gene Facelift co-founder.
The DNA skin therapy has received a $1.1 million grant by a branch of the National Institutes of Health to continue research and testing.
Based on animal studies in pigs, which have skin similar to humans, the gene therapy also shows promise in healing wounds, burns and diabetic or pressure skin ulcers, Tabor says.
“It’s showing very remarkable results,” he says.
Tabor, who is based in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Perogolizzi, Naples, Fla., are trying to get Gene Facelift patented. Early on, the prospects appear encouraging – a patent reviewer started listing other possible uses, such as hair growth.
But the immediate focus is on dermatological cosmetics – making skin look good.
As skin ages, it loses thickness and collagen, the main protein in the tissue connecting the layers of skin. By age 50, skin loses half of its thickness and collagen.
As a result, older skin loses its elasticity. That produces wrinkles and sagging.
In simple terms, Gene Facelift works by using DNA genetic material to tell cells to make collagen and elastin.
Plans have been laid out to proceed with human trials, which could involve Cetero Research, formerly PRACS Institute, in Fargo.
If all goes well, Gene Facelift could be available to consumers in three or four years, at the earliest, Tabor says.
Gene Facelift would be an alternative to Botox, a toxin injected into skin that works by paralyzing facial muscles, relaxing them in order to suppress wrinkles.
Similarly, so far, microderm abrasion skin treatments apply fillers. As with Botox, the effect is purely cosmetic, with no therapeutic benefit.
OK, you might be thinking, with furrowed brow. But how much will this “Gene Facelift” cost?
“We’d like to make the whole world beautiful,” Pergolizzi says.
“It really should be affordable,” Tabor says.
The two recently were in Fargo, where they stopped by to confer with Aldevron, which provides services to biotechnology firms, including production of custom plasmid DNA used in research.
“We’re big fans of Fargo,” Pergolizzi says, referring to the capabilities offered by firms including Aldevron and Cetero, as well as support from North Dakota State University’s Center for Biopharmaceutical Research.
“It would be great for Aldevron to grow with us if we get this approved with the FDA,” Tabor says.
Another key player in the collaboration is a Nebraska firm called Nature Technology, which provides the means to help deliver gene-based pharmaceuticals.
Ordinarily, gene therapy involves a virus, providing a remedy to some life-threatening disease.
Gene Facelift marks a departure.
“It’s a paradigm breaker,” says Clague Hodson, president of Nature Technology, whose background is in cellular and molecular biology. “It’s totally out of the realm of what people ordinarily consider gene therapy.”
A new wrinkle (remover), so to speak.
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