Akouos, a Boston, MA-based precision genetic medicine company developing gene therapies that restore and preserve hearing, raised $50m in Series A financing.
The round was co-led by 5AM Ventures and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with participation from existing investor Partners Innovation Fund and new investors Sofinnova Ventures, RA Capital Management and Novartis Venture Fund.
The company intends to use the funds to advance its lead program to first-in-human clinical studies, and to accelerate the development of multiple pipeline programs that address other forms of sensorineural hearing loss with validated mechanisms and gene targets.
Led by Manny Simons, Ph.D., founder and CEO, Akouos is developing targeted adeno-associated viral vector (AAV)-based gene therapies for sensorineural hearing loss, which results from dysfunction or damage to sensory cells and/or nerve fibers of the inner ear. The company is initially focused on monogenic forms of sensorineural hearing loss, in which mutations in individual genes lead to profound deafness.
In conjunction with the financing, Akouos expanded its board of directors with two independent directors:
– Arthur Tzianabos, Ph.D., president and CEO of Homology Medicines, and
– Christopher Smith, former CEO of Cochlear Ltd.
The company also announced the expansion of its leadership team with the appointment of Michael McKenna, M.D., as chief medical officer and Jennifer Wellman as senior vice president, regulatory.
Dr. McKenna, a scientific co-founder of Akouos, is a neurotologist and pioneer of translational inner ear drug delivery approaches. He holds the Joseph B. Nadol, Jr. Chair and is the most recent director of the Division of Otology and Neurotology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and has been professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School since 2006.
Ms. Wellman is a veteran in AAV gene therapy development, with broad translational experience across multiple therapeutic areas over the past two decades.
She was a co-founder of Spark Therapeutics, Inc., where she led regulatory strategy from pre-IND through BLA acceptance for LuxturnaTM, the first in vivo gene therapy approved in the United States.
Akouos announced the formation of its scientific advisory board, comprised of experts and physicians in gene therapy and hearing loss:
– Luk Vandenberghe, Ph.D., chair and founder – director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear; assistant professor of ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School
– Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D. – F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania
– Michael McKenna, M.D., founder – chief medical officer, Akouos, and the Joseph B. Nadol, Jr. Chair at Massachusetts Eye and Ear
– William Sewell, Ph.D., founder – professor of otolaryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School
– Richard Smith, M.D., founder – founding director of the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics and the Molecular Otolaryngology and Renal Research Laboratories; professor of otolaryngology, pediatrics, medicine and molecular physiology & biophysics, University of Iowa
– Aaron Tward, M.D., Ph.D. – assistant professor in residence, department of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery, University of California at San Francisco.