Investment in hearing loss treatments on the rise

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In the same way as ophthalmology has become one of the leading markets for the biotech sector, investors are placing their bets on the development of new drugs in the area of hearing loss. Similar demographic factors are driving both of these medical areas. Treatments in these fields also benefit from minimal systemic drug exposure and objective clinical endpoints, major advantages in drug therapy.

Drug therapy approaches to hearing loss at this time remain relatively nonspecific, in the absence of greater scientific insight into the hearing process. According to Ulrich Müller, chair of the Department of molecular and cellular neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute, in La Jolla, California, the drug targets currently under investigation are “a little bit unimaginative.” “On some level, I think we need new biology.”

Nonetheless, companies working in the area have high hopes for many of the treatments being studied. Some of the drugs currently in development include the NMDA receptor antagonist AMI-101 (Auris Medical) which is to enter phase 3 clinical investigation in tinnitus in Europe and the USA later this year, the cell-penetrating peptide AM-111 (in-licensed by Auris Medical), which is being studied in acute hearing loss in phase 2/3, and d-methionine (Southern Illinois University), a micronutrient with direct and indirect antioxidant effects, also in phase 3 testing for noise-induced hearing loss.

Source: Cormac S. Investors start backing hearing loss treatments. Nature Biotechnology. 2013;31:575-576