There are plenty of reasons why people start losing their hearing. It could be prolonged exposure to loud noise, a one-time occurrence due to standing right next to the loudspeakers at a rock concert, or a result of aging.Irrespective of the cause, the remedies currently available are cochlear implants and hearing aids. These are known as limited solutions as they cannot set right the damage caused to the inner ear nor bring back regular hearing capabilities. However, quite a few biotechnology firms are in the race to come up with a drug that can actually mend damage to the inner ear.
Decibel Therapeutic, a start-up based in Boston, Frequency Therapeutics founded by a pair of biomedical engineers, Swiss biopharmaceutical company Auris Medical, and Otonomy of San Diego, are some of the names engaged in pursuit of this wonder drug.
- Decibel is looking at developing medication that can heal the damage caused to hair cells and neurons inside the cochlea or the auditory nerve. The company is also getting financial backup from Regeneron as well as access to its sophisticated research tools.
- Frequency is focused on the search for small molecule drugs that can re-energize progenitor cells which are dormant to mend cochlear hair cells. The company has completed Phase 1 of the human study successfully and is likely to start on Phase 2 later in 2018.
- Auris Medical is targeting redressal of tinnitus and hearing loss in the inner ear. Tinnitus is when there is a constant buzzing or ringing in the ears. The research is at an advanced stage of clinical development.
- Otonomy, meanwhile, is using a three-point approach to the drug development. It aims at curing hearing loss caused by chemotherapy and earlier-stage hearing impairment which is often not pronounced enough to be detected on a hearing test. The third program aims at developing drugs to restore loss of hair cells.
It might take many years before these drugs are available for widespread use, but the progress being made is a definite ray of hope to the 360 million affected people across the globe.