By ANDREW POLLACK
Driving to a meeting in 2008, Jay Lichter, a venture capitalist, suddenly became so dizzy he had to pull over and call a friend to take him to the emergency room.
The diagnosis: Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear characterized by debilitating vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
But from adversity can spring opportunity. When Mr. Lichter learned there were no drugs approved to treat Ménière’s, tinnitus or hearing loss, he started a company, Otonomy. It is one of a growing cadre of start-ups pursuing drugs for the ear, an organ once largely neglected by the pharmaceutical industry. Two such companies, Otonomy and Auris Medical, went public in 2014.
Big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Roche are also exploring the new frontier. A clinical trial recently began of a gene therapy being developed by Novartis that is aimed at restoring lost hearing.
The Hearing Review comments on the studies...
A January 9, 2015 story by Andrew Pollack in The New York Times covered many of the start-up companies, as well as pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Roche, and Novartis, that are pursuing drug studies aimed at finding new therapies for ear and balance ailments, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. The new focus on ear and balance problems has not yet produced a drug that restores lost hearing or cures related ailments, but some companies have seen positive results in early clinical trials.