When Maria Halasz started losing her hair shortly after turning 40, her search for treatment options led to a massive business opportunity.
While visiting Japan on a buying trip for her bio-tech company Cellmid, she discovered a major breakthrough by scientists who had isolated a protein called FGF5, which helps to control the hair’s natural cycle of growth and falling out.
Impressed by the results when she tried it on her own hair, she later led an acquisition of the company and its technology.
Cellmid now markets Évolis, which comes in both shampoo and tonic forms, to both men and women who’re experiencing hair loss and still have growing follicles.
Six months of the product is also offered for free to cancer survivors who are re-growing their hair after chemotherapy.
Maria recently spoke to Sarah Harris for The Game-Changers series, hosted by our friends at The Carousel.
Maria’s been involved in biotech companies for more than two decades, and led a major restructure of Cellmid when she took over as CEO and Managing Director in 2007. Under her watch the business acquired the midkine and Advangen intellectual property portfolios. She’s also led major transactions all over the world
But when she faced her own experience of hair-loss, her confidence took a hit.
“I lost so much hair that I’d wake up in the morning, look into the mirror and I could see my scalp, so it was rather distressing,” says Maria.
“The emotional impact was devastating. I went from being someone who didn’t really worry about their looks too much, to someone who was obsessed about hair.”
She started investigating some drastic options to try and fix the problem, even to the point of meeting a specialist regarding a hair transplant – where she was told to “come back in six months” when more of her hair had gone. That terrified her.
After discovering the technology Japan, Maria says she immediately wanted to acquire the technology but couldn’t do a deal. Months later when a hairdresser expressed an interest in selling the product to customers, Maria headed back to Japan to try again and was successful.
She says she now regularly hears from people who’ve used the product and are elated to find something that works. “They come to us and say, ‘you changed our lives’, and that makes me pretty excited,” she says.
Watch the video below.