Third Rock Ventures LLC, a healthcare venture firm, has announced the launch of Decibel Therapeutics, with $52 million in Series A financing by Third Rock and SR One, the corporate venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline, to discover new medicines that protect, repair, and restore hearing.
According to Third Rock Ventures, despite the fact that severe hearing disorders affect people of all ages, finding new therapeutic treatments remains one of the most under-resourced areas in drug discovery. While cochlear implants and hearing aids can help people with hearing loss, the devices have limitations and there are no therapeutic options available that restore hearing or effectively prevent hearing loss. Decibel Therapeutics reports that its approach is to integrate the latest science, tools and technology into a comprehensive drug discovery platform that will enable the company to develop a pipeline of therapies for a broad range of hearing issues.
“Millions of people are afflicted with hearing disorders and that number is growing rapidly,” said Kevin Starr, chairman and interim chief executive officer, Decibel Therapeutics and partner, Third Rock Ventures. “Hearing problems can range from minor issues involving high frequency hearing loss due to prolonged noise exposure to very severe issues resulting in close to total deafness as a long-term side effect of chemotherapy or aminoglycoside treatments. Our aim is to make an impact on the quality of life for those patients and families with the most severe forms of hearing disorders.”
Decibel Therapeutics was founded by leaders in inner ear biology and hearing disorders who collectively bring expertise across numerous hearing-related disciplines, including hearing physiology and biology, neurotrophins, hearing-related drug delivery, genetics, cochlear implants, and cell regeneration.
Decibel founders include Charles Liberman, PhD, Schuknecht Professor of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE); Gabriel Corfas, PhD, director of the Kresge Hearing Research Institute, University of Michigan; Ulrich Müller, PhD, Kershaw Professor of Neuroscience, chair of the Department of Molecular & Cellular Neuroscience, director of the Dorris Neuroscience Center, and member, Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at the Scripps Research Institute; and, Albert Edge, PhD, professor of otology and larynology, HMS and director, Tillotson Cell Biology Unit, MEE.
According to the founders, by combining recent innovations in hearing science with leading diagnostic tools, biological insights, modeling and therapeutic delivery techniques, Decibel Therapeutics aims to pioneer a comprehensive approach to define the underlying biological causes of hearing loss and develop a pipeline of breakthrough drugs targeted to specific indications and patients.
Decibel Therapeutics reports that it has already identified one near-term clinical candidate and several other targets for assessment, and the company has a tractable clinical path in targeted patient populations. The company’s focus will reportedly include pediatric cancer and cystic fibrosis patients who commonly experience ototoxicity, or hearing loss as a side effect of treatment. The focus will also include noise-induced hearing loss; residual hearing preservation or improved sound fidelity to address issues commonly associated with cochlear implants; presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss; tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ears; and genetic hearing loss.
In addition to interim roles from Third Rock partners, the company’s leadership includes Michael Solomon, PhD, chief operating officer; Leslie Shinobu, MD, PhD, chief medical officer; and Ada Silos-Santiago, MD, PhD, vice president of pharmacology. Decibel CEO Kevin Starr, Craig Muir, partner and chief technology officer at Third Rock, and Jens Eckstein, PhD, president of SR One, will join the company’s board of directors.
Source: Third Rock Ventures LLC, SR One, Decibel Therapeutics