- Courtesy Decibel
- Decibel Therapeutics, a company that’s researching treatments for hearing loss, has struck up a somewhat unusual partnership with biotech giant Regeneron.
- Instead of a deal that gives the larger company development and commercialization rights over a particular drug, this collaboration is aimed at giving Decibel access to Regeneron’s scientific expertise.
Decibel Therapeutics, a small startup that’s looking for treatments for hearing loss, just landed an unconventional endorsement from Regeneron.
Typically, partnerships between big pharma companies and small startups are formed to fill a gap in product pipeline or to give the bigger company access to technology it has the muscle to develop.
That’s not the case here, Decibel CEO Steve Holtzman told Business Insider. Instead, Regeneron will be providing the startup with scientific help to move things along. For example, Decibel could access some of the genetic information Regeneron’s gathered in order to better understand the genetics related to hearing loss.
“Regeneron is a power-house research organization,” Holtzman said.
Decibel’s looking for therapies that can treat hearing loss, a condition that impacts 360 million people around the world. The aim is that – instead of using a device to hear – one day you might be able to take a medication to treat the condition. Currently, there aren’t any medications used to treat hearing loss.
Decibel launched in 2015 after raising $52 million. In July, the company said it had received an additional investment from GV, Alphabet’s venture arm. While the exact financials of the partnership with Regeneron weren’t disclosed, Regeneron will get equity in Decibel as well as receive royalty payments if Decibel’s treatments get approved.
On the scientific side, Regeneron will send in employees to work directly with Decibel, and the startup will have access to Regeneron’s expertise in animal modeling for pre-clinical testing, antibody technology, and basic biology.
This is the second time Regeneron’s done this kind of partnership. The the first was in 2016 with Adicet Bio, an early-stage company that’s building immune cell-based treatments for cancer and other conditions.
What’s different with the Decibel deal is that while Regeneron itself is working in immunotherapy, the company isn’t at all in hearing loss, Nouhad Husseini, Regeneron’s vice president of business development told Business Insider.
The hope is to do more of these deals like this that leaves control in the hands of the startups, Husseini said.