Third Rock, SR One Put $52M Into Decibel to Battle Hearing Loss

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antibody meant to help grow neurites, the projections from the body of a neuron, like an axon or dendrite. It’ll be injected directly into the inner ear, Starr says. So a cancer patient would get an injection of a Decibel drug before chemo; a CF patient, before the antibiotic.

Decibel is well behind an emerging field of companies that have already sprouted up, like Otonomy (NASDAQ: OTIC), Auris Medical (NASDAQ: EARS), Autifony Therapeutics, and Audion Therapeutics.

Otonomy has a drug on the verge of late-stage trials for Meniere’s disease, a fluid imbalance of the inner ear that can cause gradual hearing loss. Auris Medical has one in Phase 3 trials for tinnitus. And Autifony is a GlaxoSmithKline spinout—meaning Decibel isn’t its first foray into hearing loss. (Check out this detailed piece from Chemical & Engineering News for a broad look at the field).

Starr says that the big difference between Decibel and many of these competitors is its breadth. “Many of those companies are single product shots,” he says. “This’ll be by far the largest effort in building the fundamental platform of understanding what’s happening physiologically, in hearing, in the world.”

Whether that investment will lead to effective drugs remains to be seen, but Decibel hopes to have its first in human clinical testing in less than three years. The eight-employee company should grow to 50 or 60 over the next year or two. Liberman is thrilled to see it all play out.

“I’m incredibly excited that after 40 years at the bench doing basic science it looks like some of our ideas are going to be taken from bench to bedside,” he says.

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