Otovia Therapeutics

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Portfolio| Create a world of sound for the deaf — Otovia, a start-up biotech(Otovia Therapeutics)received seed round funding

Recently, Otovia Therapeutics (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. (Otovia) received a seed round funding of RMB 55 million from the Fosun Health Fund, affiliated to Fosun Pharma.

Otovia, established in January 2022 by the Fosun Health Fund, is a biotech company focusing on innovative drugs for diseases related to inner ear hearing loss. It develops gene delivery, gene editing, and inner hair cell regeneration drugs for sensorineural deafness through five major platforms, including dual adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene delivery, gene editing and organoid, which have achieved international leadership.

There are 466 million deaf patients in the world, 32 million of which are in China, but there is no clinically effective drug for deafness prevention and treatment. The only clinically effective treatments available are hearing aids and cochlear implants, but both were developed in the 1980s with significant limitations. Chai Renjie, Chief Scientist of Otovia and Professor of Southeast University, who has devoted himself to the research on the regeneration and protection of neurons and inner hair cells for many years, noted that the prevention and treatment of deafness is a major unmet medical need in the development strategy of Healthy China. A key scientific issue in the prevention and treatment of deafness is how to effectively repair or regenerate functional inner hair cells. Researchers in the front line of medical research must take clinical problems as the starting point of scientific research, solve them through scientific research, and strive to develop the first gene therapy product for the treatment of sensorineural deafness in the field of otology, which will truly benefit the deaf patients worldwide.

Over the past two decades, gene therapy methods, particularly adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated gene therapy, have made significant breakthroughs in the field of clinical treatment of genetic diseases. AAV-mediated gene therapy is a method of delivering therapeutic genes or other therapeutic molecules to specific tissues and organs through recombinant AAV virus for the purpose of effectively treating genetic diseases. The safety and effectiveness of recombinant AAV vectors have been confirmed in many Phases I, II and III clinical trials. Besides, gene therapy has emerged as a possible strategy to treat some hereditary deafness. We are very confident to develop new therapeutic drugs for hereditary deafness caused by certain single gene mutation in the development of gene therapy products for hereditary deafness.


Another way to treat sensorineural deafness is to promote the proliferation and differentiation of cochlear inner ear stem cells and regenerate functional hair cells, so as to repair the cochlear structure and function, thus totally restoring the hearing of deaf patients. Regenerative medicine, with stem cells as its core, provides a promising solution. The behaviors of inner ear stem cells are regulated by genes, and the co-regulation of multiple genes can significantly promote the differentiation of inner ear stem cells towards hair cells and the maturation of hair cells. Therefore, the development of combined therapeutic drugs to cooperatively regulate multi-genes will fill the gap in the field of drugs and biotherapy for deafness, and bring benefits to deaf patients worldwide.

图2. 柴人杰教授团队关于内耳毛细胞的再生和保护研究

Professor Chai Renjie is the Chief Scientist of Otovia. In the meantime, Chai is the Chief Professor of Southeast University, Executive Dean of the Advanced Institute of Life and Health, Vice Dean of the School of Life Science and Technology, Distinguished Professor of the Changjiang Scholars Program of the Ministry of Education, Chief Scientist of the National Key R&D Program of China, and suppoted by the Thousand Talents Program and the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars. Also, he is Chairman of the Hearing, Language and Communication Branch of the Biophysical Society of China, Vice Chairman and Candidate Chairman of Professional Committee of Stem Cell Physiology at the Chinese Association for Physiological Sciences. He is committed to the research on the regeneration and protection of neurons and inner ear hair cells, and has published over 120 papers as the corresponding author in the past 5 years in Cell, Nature Communications, and other high-impact journals. He has won the Jiangsu Youth Science and Technology Award, ,  Shu Lan Medicine Youth Award, First Prize of Natural Science Award by the Ministry of Education, and the first prize of the Jiangsu Provincial Medical Science and Technology Award, etc. The paper published in Cell was selected as one of the best papers of year 2020. Among the best papers in Nature, Cell and Science in 2020, there were 4 papers were related to brain science, and his paper is the only one independently completed by Chinese scientists.