Today, UK charity Action on Hearing Loss announces a major investment to fund a new project to develop medicines to treat age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss at BioTrinity 2016 – Europe’s Leading Investment and Biopartnering Conference.
Hearing loss affects over 11 million people in the UK and due to an ageing population, this number is expected to rise to over 15.6 million by 2035, meaning one-fifth of us will be affected. Hearing loss can result in feelings of isolation, depression and social withdrawal, but despite this pressing need there are no medicines approved to prevent or treat hearing loss.
The three-year, £300,000 project brings together an international team comprising the French-based biotech Pragma Therapeutics with Professor Robert Frisina’s team at the Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research from the University of South Florida, Tampa.
The pioneering research aims to develop and test innovative small molecule drugs that act at the mGlu7 receptor which is involved in the transfer of signals between the sensory cells of the ear and auditory nerves that carry speech information to the brain, in response to sound. Previous genetic studies in people have demonstrated that the gene encoding the mGlu7 receptor is associated with susceptibility to age-related hearing loss, suggesting that normalising the function of mGlu7 with a medicine could help prevent or treat hearing loss.
Sylvain Celanire, PhD, Chief Executive officer of Pragma Therapeutics said:
We are very proud to receive the support of Action on Hearing Loss, to advance our mGlu7 receptor modulator program towards proof-of-concept. This Translational Research Initiative for Hearing award strongly validates the relevance of our innovative approach to developing novel treatments for sensorineural hearing loss, and in particular noise-induced hearing loss and presbycusis.
Professor Robert Frisina, Director of the Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research from the University of South Florida said:
Millions of people worldwide suffer from age-related or noise-induced hearing loss, yet we cannot obtain over-the-counter, or prescription medications to prevent or treat hearing loss. Through the generous support of Action on Hearing Loss, our international collaboration with Pragma can facilitate breakthrough progress in this field.
Dr Ralph Holme, Head of Biomedical Research at charity Action on Hearing Loss, said:
There is an urgent need for effective treatments to prevent and treat hearing loss - a condition that affects as many as one in six people in the UK and all too often isolates people from friends and family. In bringing together the drug discovery expertise of Pragma Therapeutics and the hearing research expertise of the Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research, our new project aims to bring the development of urgently needed treatments a step closer for people who choose to want them.
Action on Hearing Loss runs the world’s largest donor-supported hearing research programme, dedicated to funding research into better treatments and cures for hearing loss and tinnitus.