Amsterdam-based biotech startup Audion Therapeutics has raised €8.3 million to build the clinical Proof of Concept of its lead sensorineural hearing loss program the company announced yesterday.
€2.5 million comes from Dutch VC firm INKEF Capital that has recently co-invested in number of Dutch startups, among which Crowdynews (€2.5 million), Shapeways (€30 million) and Bloomon (3.5 million).
The other €5.8 million is a grant from the European Union through its Horizon 2020 program for the REGAIN consortium of which Audion is the coordinator. The consortium has the objective to develop the first regenerative drug for treating sensorineural hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of deafness in which the root cause lies in the inner ear or central processing centers of the brain. The hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe, profound or total. Audion targets with its lead program hearing loss caused by the loss of inner ear hair cells by developing molecules that can regenerate those lost hair cells.
“The investment from INKEF Capital and the receipt of the Horizon 2020 grant show that there is an increased commitment in both the private and public sector to develop pharmaceutical approaches to treat sensorineural hearing loss”, said Rolf Jan Rutten, CEO of Audion in a press release.
The number of people in the world with age-related hearing loss is expected to increase to 900 million by 2050. Though it’s particularly older people that are affected, hearing loss is also rising rapidly among younger people due to regular exposure to excessive noise. Medical authorities estimate the annual costs of hearing loss at $50 billion per year in the USA alone.
Dirk Kersten, managing director at INKEF Capital, says Audion’s technology is one of the leading drug therapy initiatives focused on treating a debilitating clinical condition that impacts many people globally. “The international network of collaborators that Audion has built includes premier research institutes like the UCL Ear Institute and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. This network is an important and valuable asset for the company”, he says. As a part of the deal Dirk Kersten will join Audion’s supervisory board.