Venture Capital

dNovo Looks to Grow Hair and Emerges From Stealth

SAN JOSE — dNovo Inc., a company developing a cure for hair loss by generating personalized hair stem cells, has emerged from stealth mode and announced $2.7 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, Felicis Ventures, Soma Capital, Yintai Investment Company LLC, and others.

[Photo above: Laboratory mouse 7 months after transplantation with dNovo’s induced hair stem cells. Source: BusinessWire]

dNovo is developing a proprietary direct reprogramming system to generate new, personalized hair stem cells to replace cells lost due to aging or conditions such as male patterned baldness. Using its proprietary technology, dNovo has converted human skin cells directly into induced hair stem cells without going through a pluripotent state, and demonstrated that these induced hair stem cells were capable of producing hair in a mouse model. dNovo was recently featured in MIT Technology Review and Fortune.

“We are excited to showcase our direct reprogramming system and the potential for our technology to address the underlying cause of hair loss. With our reprogramming system, we have demonstrated the feasibility of generating induced human hair stem cells and shown as a proof of principle that these cells can be used to grow hair,” said Dr. Ernesto Lujan, founder and CEO of dNovo. “Direct reprogramming technology does not rely on generating pluripotent cells but instead directly converts one cell type into another (for example, in our case, skin cells to hair stem cells). This makes our system quick and scalable. We are further optimizing our technology platform, and look forward to working with potential partners to bring our reprogramming system to the next stage.”

“We are very excited by dNovo’s early results,” said Niki Pezeshki, General Partner at Felicis Ventures. “Hair loss is one of the medical challenges that affects millions of people every year, but most current solutions only focus on slowing down hair loss. With dNovo, we see a fundamentally different approach to treatment as dNovo is actually regenerating new hair stem cells. This has the potential to become a real cure for hair loss.”

“We see dNovo at the forefront of innovation with their quest to address the age-old and pervasive problem of hair loss,” said Nikhita Jaaswal, Investor at Soma Capital. “Their novel breakthrough approach using direct stem cell regeneration to give rise to hair follicles has massive possibilities in treating hair loss in a manner compatible with innate human biology. We look forward to supporting the efforts of the dNovo team as they continue to develop their technology.”

Other investors include Ataria Ventures, Duro Ventures, Pioneer Fund, Paul Buchheit, Jason Hodges, Max Kolysh, Joey Krug, Justin Mateen, Jean Pigozzi, Claudio Pinkus, and Charles Songhurst.