Sensorion (FR0012596468 – ALSEN—a biotech company developing novel treatments for inner ear diseases—and Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH), an implantable hearing solutions company—jointly announced a strategic collaboration focused on improving hearing outcomes in patients with cochlear implants. The collaboration will evaluate therapeutic approaches using SENS-401—R-azasetron besylate, a drug candidate that aims to protect and preserve inner ear tissue when lesions are present that can cause progressive or sequelar hearing impediments—in combination with cochlear implants. Preclinical studies  are set to initiate in 2018, with potential clinical trials to begin as soon as 2019. As part of this strategic collaboration, Cochlear will invest 1.6 million (about $1.9 million USD) in shares of Sensorion. In exchange, Cochlear will receive a right of first negotiation for a global license to use SENS-401 in patients with certain implantable devices.

Cochlear Americas

Cochlear invests more than AUD$150 million (about $115 million USD) a year in research and development. The company is also involved in more than 100 research collaborations in 20 countries.

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Sensorion is developing SENS-401, a small molecule clinical candidate for hearing loss. The preclinical combination studies will evaluate SENS-401’s therapeutic effect on hearing outcomes achieved with Cochlear’s implantable devices. SENS-401 has demonstrated in preclinical models (noise- and drug-induced hearing loss) the capacity to enhance survival and preserve functional integrity of hair cells in the inner ear. It has the potential to improve hearing outcomes for patients undergoing cochlear implant surgery, according to the joint announcement.

“This innovative approach of combining SENS-401 with cochlear implants may allow for better hearing outcomes,” said Lawrence Lustig, MD, Howard W. Smith professor and chair, Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Columbia University Medical Center.  “SENS-401 has the potential to provide cochlear protection following the implantation procedure, to support long-term functional stability of the implant, and to prevent continued degeneration in some patients.”

“Addressing hearing loss is a societal priority,” said Frank Lin, MD, PhD, associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “In particular, it has substantive implications for the cognitive and physical well-being of older adults that will likely have broader effects on public health.”

“Our collaboration has the potential to be transformational for both partners, as well as for patients suffering from hearing loss,” said Nawal Ouzren, CEO of Sensorion. “In children, the sense of hearing is crucial to development, language, and learning; in older adults, hearing impairment can be disabling and isolating. We believe that our collaborative efforts could ultimately result in life-changing benefits to implanted patients and we look forward to initiating mid-stage clinical testing as soon as 2019.”

“Cochlear is committed to advance hearing therapies and we look forward to leveraging our combined knowledge and capabilities,” said Jan Janssen, CTO of Cochlear. “Sensorion has a promising portfolio of therapeutic candidates and we believe that the demonstrated effects of SENS-401 may strategically complement our technology. We are excited for what our combined efforts could mean for providing even better outcomes for implant recipients.”

Source: Sensorion, Cochlear