Roche has announced that it has entered into an exclusive partnership with Versant Ventures and Inception Sciences to create a drug discovery incubator, Inception 3, for the treatment of sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing impairment is a major global health issue with profound societal and economic impact affecting over 275 million people world-wide.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss and occurs when specialized sensory cells that detect sound (called hair cells) are injured, do not work correctly or have died.
The collaboration will focus on creating novel drug therapies that target inner ear hair cell protection and regeneration in the cochlea.
Under the terms of the agreement, Inception 3 will incorporate an innovative technology platform from Stanford University coupled with excellence in drug discovery from the ex-Amira Pharmaceuticals team at Inception Sciences, under the leadership of Peppi Prasit.
Versant will provide equity financing to the company and Roche will fund the research based on a series of milestones.
Roche retains an exclusive option to acquire Inception 3 upon a first lead compound reaching the filing stage of an investigational new drug (IND) application.
The occurrence of sensorineural hearing loss is rapidly rising, due to increasing noise exposure and aging populations. With no approved pharmaceutical therapies, the unmet medical need is very high.
“Our strategy at Roche Neuroscience is to focus on areas of unmet medical need where we understand the biological mechanism of disease” comments Luca Santarelli, Global Head of Roche Neuroscience.
Santarelli continued, “Due to significant advances in unraveling the biological basis of sensorineural hearing loss, we decided to build a significant external R&D effort in this area in partnership with world-class scientists, entrepreneurs and investors”.
“This deal structure is unique in that it enables us to pursue exciting, emerging science and develop it in partnership with venture capital and pioneers in this field” indicated Shafique Virani, Global Head of Neuroscience Partnering at Roche.
Virani continued, “The collaboration construct further gives us the flexibility in externalizing our R&D fixed cost base into an operationally nimble new company to achieve this.”