There was a great deal of reporting this week on San Diego-based Otonomy closing $38.5 million in Series B financing to develop treatments related to balance disorders and hearing loss. But, as Xconomy's Luke Timmerman pointed out back in June, "The company's lead drug candidate isn't a radical sort of thing built on gee-whiz molecular biology."
What is "gee whiz" is the way the company delivers antibiotics to treat ear ailments. Rather than topical, oral or intravenous, Otonomy is pioneering the delivery of drugs into the middle ear via intratympanic (IT) injection, which the company's website describes as holding "great promise for the otology field just as intravitreal injections helped revolutionize the treatment of ophthalmic disorders."
Under this method, the drug is injected into the middle ear through a small hole punctured in the tympanic membrane, more commonly known as the eardrum. The drug enters the inner ear through a thin membrane that is permeable to small and large molecules, providing ready access to both the cochlear (hearing) and vestibular (balance) organs. The company says that preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that IT injections result in higher inner ear drug levels and lower systemic exposure than either oral or intravenous methods.
Otonomy CEO Jay Lichter, who founded the company in 2008 after his own struggle with Meniere's disease, tells VentureWire that few other companies are as well-capitalized as his and none "have the approach of direct delivery to the target organ with a sustained released technology."