Akouos, a new biotechnology company focused on restoring and preserving hearing, has closed a $7.5 million seed round led by 5AM Ventures and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with participation from Partners Innovation Fund, Akouos announced in a press release. Kush Parmar, managing partner at 5AM Ventures, and Ed Mathers, partner at NEA, have joined the Akouos board of directors as a result of the investment. Concurrent with the financing, Akouos entered into strategic license agreements with Lonza and Massachusetts Eye and Ear for exclusive rights to the Anc-AAV gene therapy platform for all hearing and balance disorders.
“Our mission is to make healthy hearing available to all,” said Manny Simons, founder and CEO of Akouos. “To this end, we are building the leading inner ear gene therapy company. Our cornerstone partnership with Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the world’s largest hearing research center, and with Lonza, a global leader in viral gene and cell therapy manufacturing, sets a strong foundation for the important work to be done in this emergent field.”
Anc-AAVs are in silico-designed adeno-associated viral vectors (AAVs), first developed in the laboratory of Dr Luk H. Vandenberghe, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Under the terms of the agreements, Akouos obtains an exclusive field license to the Anc-AAV IP estate and broad sublicensing rights, according to the release.
Building upon an existing Anc-AAV partnership between Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Lonza, the agreement with Akouos is designed to accelerate AAV gene therapy development for hearing and balance disorders by bringing together world-class expertise and resources in hearing science research and development, clinical research, and AAV manufacturing.
“Together with these strategic partners and our founding investors at 5AM Ventures, NEA, and Partners Innovation Fund, Akouos is poised to translate scientific breakthroughs into life-changing treatments,” said Simons. “We are excited to be working collaboratively with the hearing science research community, hearing health care providers, and families affected by hearing loss to create a future in which the gifts of hearing are available to all.”
“This strategic licensing deal with Akouos, alongside our valued partner in Massachusetts Eye and Ear, is a key milestone on the path to delivering the next transformative class of gene therapies together,” said Marc Funk, COO, Lonza’s Pharma & Biotech segment. “It upholds our commitment at Lonza, the leader and pioneer in global AAV manufacturing, to support world-class innovation in the gene therapy field and our continuous quest for improving patients’ lives.”
“We are very excited to bring together such great talent to accelerate the progress in treatment of hearing and balance restoration disorders,” said D. Bradley Welling, MD, PhD, chief of otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. “It is our mission to make a difference in the lives of patients.”