By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Imagine if there was a drug that a soldier could swallow immediately after an explosion that would prevent or heal hearing loss.
That’s the potential impact of Otologic Pharmaceutics, Inc. (OPI).
The Oklahoma City firm is working in collaboration with Hough Ear Institute (HEI) and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) to develop NHPN-1010, a combination of two well-understood and safe compounds, one of which already has FDA approval and the other which comes out of research at OMRF.
Scientists from Hough Ear Institute and OMRF found that the two compounds together show great promise in preventing noise-induced hearing loss — the No. 1 disability for the military. Administering the compound orally immediately after the damaging event may allow the ear to heal, which could make the difference between whether a person can hear in the future or not.
And it’s not just the military that could benefit.
Approximately 20 percent of the population reports some notable degree of hearing loss, with about 60 percent of those being in school or active in the workforce.
OPI anticipates entering Phase I human trials by mid-year.
“There are all sorts of reasons to be in this business, but the most important thing is that we are here to help patients with a serious problem,” said Clayton Duncan, Otologic’s CEO. “This is a team effort. There is no other way. It takes so much to bring a drug to patients — so many resources — but we actually have most of them here in Oklahoma. We will bring the resources to bear to do it.”
Duncan also leads Accele BioPharma, an Oklahoma-based accelerator of early stage bioscience companies, and is managing director of Accele Venture Partners I, LP, a $10 million fund formed to invest in bioscience companies managed by the Accele BioPharma team.
“Capital attracts capital. If we invest with other people, they will invest with us,” Duncan said. “i2E has been heroic with its efforts, but we need more capital on the private side. We won’t be Boston or San Francisco, but we can be a regional bioscience hub. All it takes is a few successful deals.”
Oklahoma is becoming a bioscience hub.
Our amazing scientists are producing groundbreaking discoveries. OMRF and our other research institutions are second to none. We are doing the heavy lifting required to raise investment capital.
Perhaps most significantly, we have the will to work together across private and public sectors to build a model that will succeed.
Is this difficult and will it take time? Absolutely. But we are solidly on the path.
We don’t have to match Silicone Valley or Boston to be a powerful player in entrepreneurial bioscience. We just have to be ourselves.
DID YOU KNOW: An estimated 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have significant sensor-neural hearing loss due to loud noise.