Is there a drug for hearing loss?

I beg your pardon? Those who do not understand something correctly may belong to the 15 percent of the population in industrialized nations who suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss. It is all the more astonishing that there is still no recognized drug therapy for such a widespread sensory disease. A mild hearing loss begins with a deviation from normal hearing of more than 26 decibels. From 41 to 60 decibels of hearing threshold loss, patients can only follow a conversation with difficulty or not at all and are usually given a hearing aid or, in the case of severe hearing loss (from 61 to 80 decibels) and deafness (from 81 decibels), a so-called cochlea Implant. But the many people, around 12 million in Germany alone, who hear less and less in the course of their lives, cannot yet be effectively helped with a drug.

The research team around Prof. Dr. Hubert Löwenheim, the Medical Director of the University Clinic for Ear, Nose and Throat Medicine in Tübingen, did not resign. In 2012, Prof. Löwenheim and colleagues founded Acousia Therapeutics GmbH together with the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) and the Tübingen biotech company EMC microcollections GmbH in order to develop a drug treatment for diseases of the inner ear. Acousia works closely with the university clinic under a service contract.

Research at Acousia focuses on the so-called cochlea. This tiny snail-shaped cavity in the ear is lined with a membrane that is covered with hair cells. These sensory cells are absolutely necessary for the transmission of stimuli and thus for hearing. If they are destroyed, they do not grow back in mammals, unlike birds. Damaged hair cells have so far been irretrievably lost due to noise, toxic substances such as those used in chemotherapy, inflammation or aging processes. The Acousia team has identified a number of pharmaceutical substances that stimulate remaining sensory cells to protect them from damage and increase sensitivity. "If further development is successful, the substances can be administered as medication in front of certain hearing-damaging chemotherapy patients, and thus help to minimize hearing damage," explains Dr. Christoph Antz, who has been managing director of Acousia Therapeutic since 2017. "The medical need is already enormous, and we expect a further increase in the course of the demographic development."

From an investor's point of view, this unique approach is so interesting that Acousia Therapeutics GmbH has just closed a follow-up financing of ten million euros. Dr. Harald Poth, Senior Investment Manager at the leader of the investor consortium LBBW Venture Capital: “The Acousia team has an impressive portfolio of pharmaceutical substances with a unique mode of action for protecting, repairing and restoring the sensory cell functions in the inner ear, which we are happy to use through clinical development want to accompany. ”In addition to LBBW Venture from Stuttgart, Creathor Ventures from Bad Homburg and the international Bregua Corporation are now part of the investor consortium. The venture capital subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim is involved in the financing round as a founding investor and partner, as is the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). The new funds make it possible to advance the first tests of drug candidates on patients over the next few years.

Dr. Klaus Eichenberg, Managing Director of BioRegio STERN Management GmbH, is pleased about the investment as further evidence of the strength of the location: "The new financing round enables the rapid and efficient implementation of scientific research results from the region in medical applications."