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Lonza has entered into strategic license agreements for exclusive rights to a gene-therapy platform for developing treatments for hearing and balance disorders.
On Nov. 30, 2017, Lonza announced strategic license agreements with Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE), a specialty hospital, and Akouos, a new biotechnology company focused on restoring and preserving hearing, for exclusive rights to an ancestral adeno-associated viral vectors (Anc-AAV) gene-therapy platform for hearing and balance disorders.
The agreement with Akouos will accelerate AAV gene therapy for hearing and balance disorder. This agreement builds on an existing Anc-AAV partnership between MEE and Lonza. It brings together expertise and resources in hearing-science research and development, clinical research, and AAV manufacturing.
Based on the close of a $7.5-million seed round led by investors 5AM Ventures and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with participation from Partners Innovation Fund, Akouos plans to build a gene therapy company focused on hearing and balance disorders. Kush Parmar, managing partner at 5AM Ventures, and Ed Mathers, partner at NEA, will join the Akouos board of directors as a result of the investment.
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, according to the companies.
“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,” said Dr. Manny Simons, founder and CEO of Akouos, in a company press release.
“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, in the press release.