A team of scientists led by a Japanese pharmaceutical startup has been working on a drug to stimulate the growth of new teeth in what would be a world-first, aiming to put it on the market by around 2030.

Toregem Biopharma, funded by Kyoto University, is expected to begin clinical trials on healthy adults in around July 2024 to confirm the drug's safety, after the team succeeded in growing new teeth in mice in 2018.

Most people have "tooth buds" that have the potential to become a new tooth, in addition to baby and permanent teeth, although the buds usually do not develop and subsequently disappear.

The team created an antibody drug that inhibits the protein that suppresses the growth of teeth. The drug works on these buds and stimulates their growth.

In 2018, the team also administered the drug to ferrets, which have both baby and permanent teeth similar to humans, and new teeth grew.

The team plans to hold a clinical trial for the drug from 2025 for children between 2 and 6 years old with anodontia, who are born without some or all permanent teeth. The children will be injected with one dose to induce teeth growth.

There are also hopes to utilize the drug in the future for adults who have lost teeth due to cavities.

"Missing teeth in a child can affect the development of their jaw bone," said Katsu Takahashi, co-founder of Toregem Biopharma and head of dentistry and oral surgery at Kitano Hospital in Osaka.

"We hope the drug will serve as a key to solving those problems," he said.