Biotech startup, Frequency Therapeutics, announced today that it has received a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Hearing and Balance Research Award grant. The $2 million dollar, peer-reviewed grant will be used to investigate the company’s unique Progenitor Cell Activation (PCA) approach to hearing restoration for military personnel with service-related hearing loss.
Prevention of hearing loss and tinnitus have become increasingly important priorities for the US military in recent years, with both conditions costing the US billions of dollars each year in veteran disability claims.
The DoD Research Award will support translational preclinical and early-stage clinical research into hearing restoration using PCA.
It is estimated that over 50% of battlefield situational awareness comes from hearing, through environmental monitoring or from communications with other soldiers. Combat experience, with peak noise levels reaching nearly 180 dB, has been associated with a 63% increased risk for hearing loss according to a 2015 study of nearly 50,000 soldiers.
Hearing Loss Restoration for US Military
The grant will help fund research aimed to increase soldier’s effectiveness, reduce veteran’s disabilities and also increase retention of experienced soldiers, who would otherwise be forced to retire due to hearing loss.
“Progenitor Cell Activation has the potential to have a profound impact on hearing loss as well as a multitude of other disease indications. This research award will support Frequency’s continued effort to advance novel therapeutics to address noise-induced hearing loss and improve the quality of life for our service members, veterans, their caregivers and family members, and ultimately the American public.”
–Will McLean, PhD, Frequency VP, Biology and Regenerative Medicine
Dr. William McLean, a VP and co-founder of Frequency, is helping lead the company’s discovery labs in Farmington, Connecticut. He currently serves an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and will be heading the research program with the DoD.
According to David Lucchino, President and CEO of Frequency, “The DoD’s Hearing and Balance Research Award provides meaningful, peer-reviewed validation as we move toward Phase 2 clinical trials in hearing restoration later this year.”
Frequency’s novel PCA Regeneration therapy currently under development (FX-322) uses a proprietary combination of the company’s small-molecule drugs to cause inner ear progenitor cells to multiply and create new hair cells. Using currently established procedures for intratympanic injections, the small molecules will be injected in a slow release gel into the middle ear, where it will then cross the round window membrane and enter the cochlea.
Source: Frequency Therapeutics; image courtesy 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson, USCENTCOM