What You Need to Know About Decibel Therapeutics
Published: Jan 20, 2017
January 9, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Decibel Therapeutics is focused on discovering and developing new therapeutics to protect, repair and restore hearing for a broad range of people with impaired hearing.
The company plans to combine recent innovations in hearing science with leading diagnostic tools, biological insights, modeling and therapeutic delivery techniques. It is working on a comprehensive approach to define the underlying biological causes of impaired hearing and to develop a pipeline of therapies for specific patient populations.
“A big question for us when we started Decibel was: given that there is a massive, growing need for treating damaged hearing, why is it widely overlooked and under-resourced in medicine and R&D?” Decibel president and chief executive officer, Steven Holtzman, told BioSpace.
“We found that our collective understanding of hearing biology and what happens during damage, from overexposure to loud noises or drug side effects, for example, has increased markedly in the last few years. It was previously unrecognized in sensory hearing impairment that the most vulnerable elements in the ear are the synapses between hair cells and neurons. We gathered the leading researchers responsible for these new findings and realized that they are united in their mission: have the science see the light of day to help people living with impaired hearing. With that, we started discussing the science and mapping the concept behind Decibel to build a broad, comprehensive company focused on inner ear biology.”
Steven Holtzman—president and chief executive officer. Before joining Decibel, Holtzman was executive vice president, corporate development at Biogen . Before Biogen he was the founder, chief executive officer and chair of Infinity Pharmaceuticals .
Michael Su—chief scientific officer. Prior to Decibel, Su was co-founder and senior vice president of research and development at Agios Pharmaceuticals .
Leslie Shinobu—chief medical officer. Shinobu spent two years prior to joining Decibel in support of Third Rock Ventures’ new companies with the title of vice president, head of the CNS drug development unit within Takeda . She spent 12 years working on late-stage programs for Biogen Idec, Merck Serono , and GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
Paula Cobb—senior vice president of strategy, portfolio and programs. Prior to Decibel, Cobb was senior vice president of the rare disease group at Biogen.
John Lee—senior vice president of pharmaceutical development. Before joining Decibel, Lee was senior vice president of pharmaceutical development at Infinity Pharmaceuticals.
Ada Siloso-Santiago—vice president, pharmacology. Silos-Santiago served as senior director of pharmacology at Ironwood PharmaceuticalsTrovaGene before joining Decibel.
Peter Castrichini—vice president of human resources. Before Decibel, Castrichini was senior vice president of human resources at Interactive Data Corporation.
On October 15, 2015, Decibel launched with a $52 million Series A financing led by Third Rock Ventures, with participation from SR One.
Since its launch, the company has been focused on consolidating its science, tools and technology into a comprehensive hearing platform that will allow it to molecularly map cochlear pathology with auditory dysfunction. This platform encompasses animal models, drug delivery to the inner ear, imaging, inner ear PK/PD modeling and measurement, bioinformatics, and target identification capabilities.
Decibel’s immediate focus includes pediatric cancer and cystic fibrosis patients who often experience ototoxicity—damaged hearing—from CF drug treatment. The company is also working on ways to preserve residual hearing and improve sound fidelity related to age-related hearing impairment (presbycusis), tinnitus, genetic-caused hearing loss, and problems commonly associated with cochlear implants.
Other companies working in this area include Otonomy , Auris Medical , Audion Therapeutics, Autifony Therapeutics and Sound Pharmaceuticals.
What to Look For
The company’s immediate focus is building its platform, and moving its program into clinical development, after identifying acute, targeted inidications that can provide near-term opportunities for human proof-of-concept for its therapeutic candidates.
See Top Life Science Startups 2017
See Top Life Science Startups 2016
See Top Life Science Startups 2015