[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic ] – Sunshine and skin damage have prompted a San Diego biotechnology company to expand in Arizona to develop a line of anti-aging skin products.
Histogen Inc. has opened a Tempe office and plans to begin selling three new skin-care products in the first quarter of 2009.
The company said it uses a stem-cell-like technology to foster a skin product derived from skin discarded from infants after circumcisions.
The company wants to parlay revenue collected from the sale of aesthetic products to fund research in areas such as cardiovascular and wound healing.
It’s the same playbook sketched out by other Arizona biotechnology companies such as Tucson-based Niadyne Development: develop anti-aging skin products backed by science to raise cash while focusing on a bigger prize of health research.
The Tempe division is called Histogen Aesthetics.
President Lawrence Rheins said the company chose Arizona to launch its aesthetics business due to the Phoenix-area’s large network of dermatologists and plastic surgeons focused on cosmetic and anti-aging procedures as well as the state’s growing biotechnology hub.
“Everybody who lives here gets photo (sun) damage,” said Rheins, who previously served as a director at Hill Top Research in Scottsdale and an assistant dermatology professor at the University of Cincinnati. “There is a real need for these types of products because of the desert climate and the intense sun.”
Histogen CEO Gail Naughton was the co-founder of Advanced Tissue Sciences, a former San Diego biotech company that had a promising skin-patch technology to treat burns and wounds.
The company eventually filed bankruptcy amid heavy debt and a struggle to get Food and Drug Administration approval for a key product.
Naughton, now a dean of the college of business administration at San Diego State University, has reloaded with Rheins and several of her former Advanced Tissue colleagues.
Of Histogen’s first 25 employees, 18 worked together at Advanced Tissue, Rheins said.
“It is clearly the reason we were able to start as fast as we were able to,” he said.
Histogen’s Tempe office has four employees, with plans to expand to about 20 workers as the company launches its line of skin products targeting baby boomers and others. The positions will mainly be sales and marketing.
Rheins said the company expects its non-prescription products will be sold by plastic surgeons and dermatologists and distributed by a Tempe company, Secure Medical. Secure Medical CEO John Rao also sits on the board of Histogen, and Secure Medical is an investor.
Histogen’s products will be made from an ingredient the company calls ReGenica, which can be used for skin, hair and nail care.
The company said its technology mimics the embryo, allowing the growth of protein-rich material that is similar to what is found in young skin.
Rheins said the company’s initial products will include a gel that can be applied to skin after laser resurfacing. It also will unveil anti-aging lotions that are applied day and night.
Earlier this year, Histogen unveiled a kit to grow stem cells, called BioNuesis.
The Tempe division expects to expand with other skin offerings such as dermal fillers or treatments for skin conditions such as acne or rosacea.
Rheins said Histogen has no plans to conduct research at its Tempe office, but the company may conduct clinical trials here.
The parent company, which formed last year, believes the technology can be used to eventually have many beneficial therapeutic uses, including regenerating cells that can help treat cardiovascular patients and heal wounds.