Startup Gets $52 Million Investment to Develop Drug Treatment for Hearing Loss

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October 15, 2015
kevin starr

Kevin Starr, CEO

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Third Rock Ventures, a biotechnology-focused venture capital firm located in Boston, announced the launch of a new startup company with the sole purpose of treating hearing loss. The new company, Decibel Therapeutics, raised $52 million dollars in Series A funding for its launch, with investment from Third Rock Ventures and SR One—the venture capital arm of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.{{1}}[[1]]GlaxoSmithKline is the world’s sixth-largest pharmaceutical company.[[1]]{{2}}[[2]]GlaxoSmithKline has made other hearing-related investments, including a $2M investment in Autifony Therapeutics in 2011 for treatment of hearing loss and tinnitus.[[2]]

While sensorineural hearing loss is typically treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants, there are no current therapeutic or pharmaceutical options available to restore or prevent sensorineural hearing loss.

The new company is developing drugs that can be directly injected into the inner ear, and are investigating multiple modalities for drug development.

Broad Target to Protect, Repair, & Restore Hearing

The new company’s mission is to find ways to protect, repair and restore hearing function and it cites research from its founding members as evidence that drug treatment for hearing loss is indeed possible.

“Despite the fact that severe hearing disorders affect people of all ages, finding therapeutic treatments remains one of the most under-resourced areas in drug discovery today. Devices, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids, have significant limitations and there are no therapeutic options available that restore hearing or effectively prevent hearing loss” Kevin Starr, CEO of Decibel Therapeutics

The company was founded by a group of internationally recognized experts on inner ear biology and hearing disorders:

  • Charles Liberman, Ph.D., Schuknecht Professor of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Massachusetts Eye and Ear
  • Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D., Director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, University of Michigan
  • Ulrich Müller, Ph.D., Kershaw Professor of Neuroscience; Chair, Department of Molecular & Cellular Neuroscience; Director, Dorris Neuroscience Center; and Member, Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at the Scripps Research Institute
  • Albert Edge, Ph.D., Professor of Otology and Larynology, Harvard Medical School and Director, Tillotson Cell Biology Unit, Massachusetts Eye and Ear

According to the CEO, Kevin Starr, the company will initially start by focusing on smaller patient populations such as children undergoing chemotherapy or those with cystic fibrosis. Once the treatment has proven to be effective, they will be able to focus on larger issues like age-related hearing loss.

While it remains to be seen whether such a tremendous investment in treating hearing loss will be successful, the company is aiming to see its first human trials within the next three years.

  1. 7/29/08 – Onset of Vertigo. (One week after minor outpatient knee surgery, in hospital.) 8/5/08 – Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss.
    Left Ear – 100% Deaf, Severe Tinnitus and 45% Vestibular Damage per ENG.
    Right Ear – 20 dB Hearing Loss, Severe Hyperacusis, Tinnitus, Distorted Hearing and Misophonia.
    Body – Imbalance.

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