While many biotech firms are trying to fit in mature markets, oncology among others, the company Sensorion made the bet of a new market : that of drugs against diseases affecting the hearing. With its product the more advanced, the Meaning of 111, a receptor antagonist (interacting with the natural molecules of the body), the biopharmaceutical company expects to reduce the symptoms of vestibular neuritis acute. This inflammatory response to a virus may lead to severe dizziness and nausea, going so far as to create disability.
“This condition affects 70,000 people in Europe, the United States and Japan. A part of them cannot return to work,” explains Nawal Ouzren, director-general of Sensorion.
With its second flagship product, the Direction 401, the company also intends to fight against the deafness immediate, the origin of hearing loss irreversible for half of the people affected. This treatment aims to inhibit the death of cells responsible for hearing, and block the hearing problems. In 12 months, Sensorion hope to have three indications in the course of phase II, if one adds the use of the Sense of 411 against ototoxicity in children, impaired auditory functions resulting from the use of certain drugs, including chemotherapies (Cisplatin).
Hearing loss, billions for the health systems
The French biotech wants to go in a market that is almost non-existent for the drug treatments. Currently, after the medical care of ex-sedated, for example, for the vestibular neuritis-the solutions in the case of hearing loss are not eliminated are hearing aids, more and more powerful, but accentuating the amplitude of the sounds already collected, without necessarily lead to the most sound frequencies. Or cochlear implants, with electrical stimulation, used for hearing loss severe to profound. These last are very expensive (several tens of thousands of euros per implant).
In total, the market for hearing aids represents $ 4.5 billion in 2015, and could grow to $ 6.5 billion in 2024, according to the consulting firm grand View Research. And in the world, estimated by WHO, the direct costs (supported by the health system) hearing problems are escalating 67-107 billion dollars per year, without counting the indirect costs of loss of productivity, totaled more than $ 100 billion.
The competition is restricted in the medicines for these indications. At the end of 2014, there was no solution effective medication on the market against the problems of inner ear and hearing loss linked, according to the firm Roots Analysis. Today, there are sixty ongoing clinical trials for these treatments, but only a dozen in phase III. This includes a promising new strategy that starts timidly, with a phase I trial in gene therapy for severe hearing loss. Novartis had, however, suspend temporarily in order to provide more data to the FDA on the protocol for the clinical trial.
Nawal Ouzren, who hopes to set up partnerships with pharmaceutical giants, is looking forward to this little competition:
“The big pharmas, in search of growth, are in need of therapeutic areas poorly developed with little competition.”
An open market is risky and
The market is so open, but also risky, because drug candidates are familiar with multiple misfires. In August, for example, the biotech Otonomy has suffered a dismal failure in phase III with the Otiprio, a treatment for Meniere’s disease, a chronic disease of the inner ear, resulting in profound hearing loss. While with other treatments the candidate, the company has seen the value of his title almost divided by 6 following this announcement, at the end of August, to move to a value of 3.5 dollars which has not moved since…
The next month, Auris Medical, a biotech switzerland, is expected to publish the results of the phase III (the last step before a potential commercialisation) is a treatment for deafness brutal, with the hope of a first treatment of this type on the market. Nawal Ouzren waiting with impatience.
“We need a good result, that would be a good sign. We are in continual search of cash. It is a treatment competitor, but the mode of administration is different from ours, it is done by injection.”
To develop this market, it will also need to convince the authorities and health professionals, not accustomed to drug treatments targeting the evolutions of these pathologies affecting hearing. Nawal Ouzren, previously, a patron of the global division of genetic diseases of Shire, one of the largest biotech in the world, think, however, that the market of treatments for the hearing is on the point of take off.
“The case of the inner ear reminds me of the one of the ophthalmology ten years ago. The pharmaceutical industry is concerned, the medical practice is rising in power in parallel in this area.”