Polaris and MIT’s Langer Meet L’Oreal. Don’t Believe It? There’s “Living Proof”
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to get around that problem by using light or heat (from a hair dryer, curling iron, or the like) to trigger the formation of the polymers out of smaller molecules in the hair product right on the hair, a process called in situ polymerization.
It was less clear how this science would apply to skin care, if at all, but Living Proof could easily have other tricks up its sleeve. For example, I found some clues to link well-known Harvard dermatologist R. Rox Anderson with then-Andora when I wrote last year about Polaris’s Nashat and his efforts at the startup. Anderson has developed laser-based techniques for removing hair and birthmarks, and is one of the founders of New Jersey-based Freedom2, which markets a tattoo ink that is easily removed with lasers.
Living Proof says on its Massachusetts Biotechnology Council profile that it expects to launch its own products within a year to 18 months. While cosmetic applications of serious science may sound silly, the huge market for beauty products trumps many of the medical devices and pharmaceutical markets that Langer and Polaris are typically known to pursue. The U.S. market for hair products and services grew from $9.7 billion in 2002 to $10.5 billion last year, according to UK-based market research firm Euromonitor International. As a man who’ll cop to using gel and spending too much for haircuts, I was still surprised to see that U.S. men spent 50 percent more in hair salons in 2007 ($967.7 million) than in 2002 ($646.8 million). Of course, Living Proof would have to compete for these riches with consumer products heavyweights such as Procter & Gamble and L’Oreal.
For Polaris and its fellow VC outfits, the vanity of consumers is a popular bet. Our own king of hair puns, Xconomy CEO Robert Buderi, recently chronicled the prodigious fundraising at Boston startup Follica, which proposes to alter the fate of adult cells to grow new hair or eliminate unwanted hair. And if I had a dollar for every venture-backed medical devices startup with a new system for sculpting or removing fat…
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