In the past, not much research was done into alopecia areata, a common autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, because researchers didn’t understand the mechanisms behind the disease. Some people even went so far as to say it wasn’t as important to find a cure for alopecia areata because hair loss was not as damaging as the effects of other diseases. We know now that people, both men and women, who lose their hair endure emotional and psychological suffering. Fortunately, a new treatment option is already FDA approved.
Life science researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have been able to point to the immune cells that destroy hair follicles and cause hair loss in people with alopecia areata. The researchers also tested an FDA-approved drug that got rid of these immune cells and allowed the hair to grow back in a small number of patients.
“We’ve only begun testing the drug in patients, but if the drug continues to be successful and safe, it will have a dramatic positive impact on the lives of people with this disease,” said Raphael Clynes, MD, PhD, study leader and professor in the Department of Dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center. “We still need to do more testing to establish that ruxolitinib should be used in alopecia areata, but this is exciting news for patients and their physicians. This disease has been completely understudied—until now, only two small clinical trials evaluating targeted therapies in alopecia areata have been performed, largely because of the lack of mechanistic insight into it.”
Image courtesy of Columbia University
The results of the study, published in Nature Medicine, detail how researchers first studied mice with the disease and worked backwards to discover which T cells were attacking the hair follicles. Two JAK inhibitors – ruxolitinib and tofacitinib – were tested separately, and both proved capable of blocking the attack on hair follicles. In the studies on mice, these drugs totally restored the animals’ hair in 12 weeks. The researchers quickly moved on to clinical trials, in which three early participants had restored hair growth within four to five months of starting treatment.
“The timeline of moving from genetic findings to positive results in a clinical trial in only four years is astoundingly fast and speaks to this team’s ability to perform translational science of the highest caliber,” said David Bickers, MD, professor of Dermatology and chair of the Department of Dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center. “There are few tools in the arsenal for the treatment of alopecia areata that have any demonstrated efficacy. This is a major step forward in improving the standard of care for patients suffering from this devastating disease.”
The funding required to support this study is not by any means the only funding Columbia University receives to support its life science researchers. Consider these funding statistics for Columbia University:
- Columbia University is building a 100,000-square-foot, $77 million new medical building.
- Columbia is building a 70,000-square-foot, $40 million structure for the nursing school.
- The National Institutes of Health awarded Columbia $349 million in new funding in 2013.
- The National Science Foundation gave Columbia $82.1 million in new funding in 2013.
- In 2013, Columbia University received $396.3 million in direct private gifts, grants, and contracts.
- In 2012-2013, the endowment at Columbia University was worth $8.2 billion.
Clearly, funding statistics for Columbia University show that the school is a thriving research marketplace. If you would like to meet face-to-face with researchers at Columbia, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. invites you to exhibit at the BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at the Armory Track & Field Center on September 30th, 2014.
For more life science marketing opportunities in other regions of the United States, see the 2014 calendar of events. Click on the exhibitors button below for more funding statistics for Columbia University and Columbia vendor show information.