otomagnetics nanotechnology ear treatment interview

Using Nanotechnology to Treat Ear and Hearing Disorders: Interview with Otomagnetics CEO, Abhita Batra

In this week’s technology spotlight, Dr. Bob Traynor speaks with Abhita Batra, CEO and Director of Otomagnetics. The company, a University of Maryland College Park spin-out, is developing a non-invasive method to deliver drugs and other therapeutic payloads to inner and middle ear compartments, to the eye, and into the skin.

The inner ear is behind the blood-labyrinth barrier – vessels that supply blood to the inner ear have walls that are impermeable to most drug molecules, and thus it is a challenge to deliver therapy to treat inner ear diseases.

Otomagnetics is developing and commercializing a magnetic injection delivery system that will be able to safely, effectively, and non-invasively deliver therapy to targets in the body that are currently not effectively reached by the standards-of-care, or that may otherwise require surgery to reach.

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Full Episode Transcript

Bob Traynor
Welcome to This Week in Hearing, where listeners find all things related to hearing care, the latest developments in politics and legislation, innovative technologies, pharmaceuticals, therapeutics, and the latest trends in practice management. The segment of this week’s topic in This Week in Hearing is on a discussion of nanoscience, a true 21st century innovation in the possible treatment of hearing disorders. Today, my guest is Abhita Batra, CEO of Otomagnetics, a nanotechnology company based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, actually an offshoot of the University of Maryland. Today we’re going to talk about the the real breakthroughs in hearing care. But before we start doing that, Abhita, can you tell me a little bit first, my audience probably doesn’t have an idea what nanoscience really is, and and before we get into it a little bit what got you into nanoscience? And how did you become interested in this particular topic?

Abhita Batra
Thank you so much, Robert, for having me here. It’s been an amazing journey working with you and knowing you and the group that you work with. Well, nanoscience is the most important research in modern science, according to me. What we are doing in nanoscience or nanotechnology is allowing our scientists chemists to work at a molecular cellular level to produce most important advances in healthcare. We are working with magnetic nanoparticles. So that’s even unique in its own form and way because we are basically collaborating with, collaborating or bringing material science, engineering, molecular science, everything together, and creating all these interesting magnetic nanoparticles that could be moved around under magnetic influence. So I think that hasn’t been done before, where we are, you know, using these magnetic nanoparticles as a carrier to move them to the target indications. So according to me, that’s very exciting. And I’m glad to be a part of it. To answer your other question, when did I get involved in it? I mean, I’ve been involved in pharmaceutical space since I remember. I mean, it’s been more than a decade, I’ve been involved in pharma and biotech. Nanoparticle space, you know, I was involved for quite some time. And magnetic nanoparticle space I got involved a couple of years ago. So I was introduced to this concept of, you know, moving the particles and the magnetic influence. And that was through water magnetics. And that’s where I realized we are actually going to be able to bridge the gap between pharma biotech world by introducing a new way of drug delivery, which excited me and I think we can revolut, revolutionize the world we’re in

Bob Traynor
Sounds fascinating. again. And so this nanoscience and nanotechnology is, is a very interesting concept for working with, with these particles, how does Otomagnetics actually work? to do these things? And and, of course, my group will be interested in the specifics of how it works, more or less with the hearing side, because I know it does have some other applications.

Abhita Batra
Yeah, it does have quite a few applications. But just to give you a perspective on you know, what we are doing in Otomagnetics… Otomagnetics is a unique drug delivery platform technology, which offers the guidance of magnetic nanoparticles under the influence of magnetic forces and the device that we’ve created, along with these particles to take it to the target indication. Our first started indication is, you know, here, where we have multiple programs where we are trying to assess how we can help, you know, help affect the hearing community and somehow help them retain the hearing. When it comes to, you know, patients undergoing chemo or whether it is, you know, patients undergoing multiple ear infections that basically leads to multiple surgeries in the future. So, as I said, we have a unique drug delivery platform technology that are allows for non invasive drug delivery, our target indication can be expanded to, you know, eye and skin as well. But the possibilities are vast even beyond that.

Bob Traynor
So, now my understanding is that the nanoparticles can go right through the tympanic membrane.

Abhita Batra
That’s right

Bob Traynor
Help us with that part just a little bit.

Abhita Batra
Yeah, so what we are doing is, you know, you if you know the anatomy of your, it’s very convoluted talking about inner ear or middle ear, right? Getting something across tympanic membrane has always been a challenge. And that’s why when we started working on our technology, we figured out a way of delivering the drugs across the tympanic membrane, and that was under the magnetic influence. So our magnetic nanoparticles are carrying a payload, which could be you know, antibiotic, or it could be steroid, or it could be both based on the doctor indication. And the formulation is developed in a way that, you know, you basically, a doctor can use it in the form of, or they will have a dropper, you know, and they put some drops inside the year. Under the magnetic influence, which is a device created by Oto, you can easily cross or pass the formulation to the tympanic membrane. So we’ve created the magnetic confluence, right, between these particles and the device that we can control the depth and delivery of the drug, be it inner ear or middle ear, trans, we’re seeing through the membrane.

Bob Traynor
So not only does it cross through the tympanic membrane, but it also I think, I’ve seen places where it crosses through the round window into the inner ear as well.

Abhita Batra
That’s right.

Bob Traynor
And, and the, The other thing I found, as also was that, that it in, even with injections into the round window, you can’t get the medication far enough into the cochlear structure. But with the Otomagnetic system that is different. Yeah,

Abhita Batra
We can easily cross through the membrane and go into the round window membrane with our technology. And that’s why we say the non invasive drug delivery, when you’re talking about we’ve done a lot of experimentation in animals for showing the delivery to inner ear. And we’ve actually, you know, measured the hearing of animals after the delivery was done as well. We published papers on that. And yeah, using the ABR equipment, we can easily figure out this, you know, the, the hearing capability, and that has shown to, you know, show some effect after the delivery under the magnetic nanoparticle or I should say, magnetic influence of Otomagnetics technology.

Bob Traynor
I know, one of your passions is the is the idea that, that this has some huge pediatric applications. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Abhita Batra
Absolutely. I think that’s a very intriguing part, right. And I want to talk about the inner ear application that we have in a program that we have it’s catered towards kids suffering from cancer. We’ve discussed this in the past that kids undergoing cancer, they would have hearing loss, and sorry, hair loss, nausea and vomiting. And not many people are aware that hearing loss is also a side effect, primarily because there is a hair cell line inside the ear responsible for hearing. So kids undergoing chemo would have hearing loss. Statistics are that 80% of the kids, when given the right treatment at the right time, they will recover from cancer. And that’s an approximate number, but that’s still high, but they would have hearing loss. And that doesn’t solve the purpose. Right? The major battle is winning the cancer and recovering from that. They shouldn’t have to worry about the side effect like hearing loss, but it does impact their life and lifestyle thereafter. So we want to combat that. We want to help them retain their hearing while they’re going through chemo. So that cisplatin ototoxicity doesn’t impact them. And that’s why we are here.

Bob Traynor
So, now I understand too that, that because you can cross the round window. There could be some applications for tinnitus treatment with this particular process also, and maybe you can elaborate on that just a little bit as well Abhita for us

Abhita Batra
Tinnitus has been a challenging market, you know? So we have been working on a couple of things on our end, trying a few drugs, that could be a possibility. I wouldn’t say that that’s the 100% cure that we are going to offer. But we’re trying it trying on our brain to figure out what the cure could be. And we’ll keep you posted on the progress of the technology. But we are, we’ve done some work on that.

Bob Traynor
So, this fascinating for, for myself, and my colleagues, as well in audiology. And I think also for my ENT colleagues as well. This would be a revolutionary kind of modification of the traditional treatments. But we expect that in the 20th century, I think, or 21st century now, I think, and can you give us a little bit of an idea of what the future might be? I mean, we, you’ve pretty, pretty well summarize kind of where we where we are and where we want to go. But what kind of future things could this nanoscience technology bring us as well?

Abhita Batra
Yes. See, as you said, we’re in the 21st century anything and everything is possible, expecting the unexpected has become the norm. The goal is with our technology, and with the new technology, we want everything to be non invasive, we want everything to be treated without surgery without needle based procedures. And we want everything to be treated within a few minutes. I mean, it could be you know, in the future, hopefully, if the technology works in multiple other indications beyond what we are working on. It might be you know, that liver surgeries are done done under non invasive guidance, the way we have to the way we are working on it. Or it could be you know, other applications in lung where we could have non invasively in the treatment, I mean, that’s where we would have, we might be looking at internal organs. That’s what I mean to say. As of now we are looking at eye, ear and skin. But with, with your we’ve already discussed inner ear and middle ear, with eye, we are looking at macular degeneration, which does impact the elderly population. And with skin being the biggest organ of the body, we are already working on different studies where we are looking at psoriasis, ulcers, diabetic wounds, whatnot. So yeah, the possibilities are huge. But the concept is delivering non invasively to hard to reach target indications. And that should be the norm. And the treatment should be done within a few minutes.

Bob Traynor
There may be a few ENTs that aren’t too satisfied with the non surgical treatment. But this will also offer them a better way to take care of their patients in clinic as well. I understand also, I want to congratulate you and Otomagnetics on your expansion into Asia and Europe with beginning your presence in India, as well as a beginning presence in Belgium as well. What will that do for the for the research and development that continues to go into the Otomagnetics project?

Abhita Batra
Well, I think the concept is to expand on to the number of magnetic nanoparticles loaded with number of drugs. We’ve already experimented with 20 different drugs that we can load onto these magnetic nanoparticle. We want to expand on the formulation development with multiple drugs so we can go beyond the target indications that we’re working on right now. So that’s the main goal of expansion. And when we are looking at Belgium, we are looking at partnering with different groups in the region for you know, collaboration in different avenues. And yeah, the goal is to expand beyond our horizon not only in different indications, but in different regions. And as I said, we want to grow we want to grow as a company have our presence established everywhere. Expand on to our research.

Bob Traynor
Fabulous. Well, again, um, this is a my The first time I think most of my colleagues will actually hear about nanoscience and nanotechnology. And from what I can tell, it looks like, like Otomagnetics is on the forefront and on the cusp of some very fantastic treatment programs for the hearing impaired. And, and so I certainly wish you and your nanoscience colleagues much success. In your capabilities and in the, in the future with these nano particle movements through the auditory system. And, and I might just say something that I said at the end of the article that you and I and, and and your colleagues put together is, you know, this reminds me a lot of the old Star Trek stuff, you’re reminds me of Bones standing with the little crystal going over people and curing them, because this is kind of what this process may be. And, and as Captain Kirk said, ‘Go boldly where no one has gone before’. I think you guys and Otomagnetics in the nanoscience community are really going boldly where no man has gone before. And on behalf of my colleagues at This Week in Hearing. Thank you so much for being with us and helping me present this brand new 21st century innovative technology to my colleagues in audiology and hearing science.

Abhita Batra
Thank you so much, Robert. It’s been a pleasure being here and I’m excited to take this forward. Thank you for your support.

 

About the Panel

Abhita Batra, MS, MBA, serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Director at Otomagnetics. Abhita is also the Founder and Managing Director of Advanced Biopharma Consulting (ABC), a strategic advisory firm that offers business development and commercialization services to life science companies. Previously, she served as the Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at Admac Group of Companies, wherein she managed a product portfolio encompassing 150 generics. She is a co-founder and former COO of Navya, a biotechnology company developing and commercializing PHF for destruction of solid tumors. Abhita completed her Global MBA at UCLA Anderson and NUS, and has a Masters in Biotechnology with specialization in Pharmaceutical Sciences from University of Pennsylvania.

 

Robert M. Traynor, is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager and author.  He has decades of experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. He serves as Adjunct Faculty in Audiology at the University of Florida, University of Northern Colorado, University of Colorado and The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.


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HHTM's mission is to bridge the knowledge gaps in treating hearing loss by providing timely information and lively insights to anyone who cares about hearing loss. Our contributors and readers are drawn from many sectors of the hearing field, including practitioners, researchers, manufacturers, educators, and, importantly, hearing-impaired consumers and those who love them.

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