Lonza, Akouos and MEE Announce Strategic Gene Therapy License Agreements on Hearing and Balance Disorders

November 30,2017
  • Lonza and Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE) grant Akouos exclusive licenses to proprietary ancestral AAV (Anc-AAV) vectors for all hearing and balance disorders.
  • Anc80, the lead Anc-AAV in a portfolio of nearly 40,000 novel capsids, is a potent gene therapy vector capable of superior gene expression in the inner ear.
  • Akouos raises $7.5 million in equity financing from 5AM Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Partners Innovation Fund.

Boston, MA, and Houston, TX (USA) – 30 November 2017 – Lonza, Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE) and Akouos, a new biotechnology company focused on restoring and preserving hearing with backing from leading life science investors, announced today their strategic license agreements for exclusive rights to the ancestral adeno-associated viral vectors (Anc-AAV) gene therapy platform for all hearing and balance disorders.

The agreement with Akouos is designed to accelerate AAV gene therapy for hearing and balance disorder. It builds on the existing Anc-AAV partnership between MEE and Lonza, and brings together world-class expertise and resources in hearing science research and development, clinical research and AAV manufacturing.

Akouos plans to build a premier gene therapy company focused on hearing and balance disorders with the close of a $7.5 million seed round led by 5AM Ventures and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with participation from Partners Innovation Fund. Kush Parmar, managing partner at 5AM Ventures, and Ed Mathers, partner at NEA, join the Akouos board of directors as a result of the investment. Concurrent with the financing, Akouos entered into the Anc-AAV gene therapy license agreements with Lonza and MEE.

Anc-AAVs are in silico-designed AAVs, first developed in the laboratory of Dr. Luk H. Vandenberghe, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center at MEE.

“Our mission is to make healthy hearing available to all,” said Dr. Manny Simons, founder and CEO of Akouos. “To this end we are building the leading inner-ear gene therapy company. Our cornerstone partnership with MEE, the world’s largest hearing research center, and with Lonza, a global leader in viral gene and cell therapy manufacturing, sets a strong foundation for the important work to be done in this emergent field. Together with these strategic partners and our founding investors at 5AM Ventures, NEA and Partners Innovation Fund, Akouos is poised to translate scientific breakthroughs into life-changing treatments. We are excited to be working collaboratively with the hearing-science research community, hearing healthcare providers and families affected by hearing loss to create a future in which the gifts of hearing are available to all.”

“This strategic licensing deal with Akouos, alongside our valued partner in MEE, is a key milestone on the path to delivering the next transformative class of gene therapies together,” said Marc Funk, COO, Lonza’s Pharma&Biotech segment. “It upholds our commitment at Lonza, the leader and pioneer in global AAV manufacturing, to support our world-class innovation in the gene therapy field and our continuous quest for improving patients’ lives.”

“We are very excited to bring together such great talent to accelerate the progress in treatment of hearing and balance restoration disorders,” said D. Bradley Welling, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of Otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital and the Walter Augustus LeCompte Professor and Chair of Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School, and Joan W. Miller, M.D., Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital, and the David Glendenning Cogan Professor of Ophthalmology and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “It is our mission to make a difference in the lives of patients.”

Disclosure

Drs. McKenna, Sewell and Vandenberghe hold equity and serve on the Scientific Advisory Board of Akouos. In addition, Dr. Vandenberghe is a listed inventor on Anc-AAV intellectual property licensed to Lonza and Akouos for which he receives royalties.

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