Otonomy Drug Could Have Broader Potential Application for Hearing Loss

2/22/11Follow @bvbigelow

Would Pete Townshend get an injection into his inner ears to save his hearing? After at least 50 years in Rock n’ Roll, it’s probably too late to save the legendary songwriter’s hearing, but San Diego-based Otonomy today announced data that suggests its lead drug candidate could help people recover from hearing loss caused by “noise trauma.”

In data presented by Otonomy at this week’s 34th MidWinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, the San Diego startup says a single injection of OTO-104, a sustained-release gel formulation of the corticosteroid dexamethasone, provided significant protection against both noise-induced and chemotherapy-induced hearing loss. Otonomy says pre-clinical studies showed positive results when the treatment was given before noise trauma, and also was shown to promote recovery from noise-induced hearing loss several days afterward.

“Most importantly, these results lend support to the potential utility of OTO-104 in protecting cancer patients from a damaging side effect of chemotherapy,” says Carl LeBel, Otonomy’s chief scientific officer. The compound also holds “the promise for treating individuals exposed to excessive noise on the battlefield or in the workplace,” LeBel says. “We look forward to advancing OTO-104 into clinical trials for these patients.”

The findings also indicate that OTO-104 has potential applications beyond Meniere’s disease, the company’s initial targeted disease. Meniere’s is an imbalance of the inner ear fluid that leads to episodes of severe dizziness, vertigo, and gradual hearing loss. As Luke has reported, Otonomy was founded in 2008 by Avalon Ventures’ Jay Lichter to develop innovative therapeutics for diseases and disorders of the ear.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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