TOKYO -- A German pharmaceutical firm will work with Kyoto University to develop a treatment for hearing loss, aiming to build on the institution's research to find a way to regenerate important cells in the inner ear.
Boehringer Ingelheim is the only major foreign pharmaceutical company to maintain drug development facilities in Japan. The company has little experience with hearing disorders, instead concentrating on such areas as circulatory and respiratory diseases. Its move into the field is part of a strategy of focusing on ailments with no treatment options.
Takayuki Nakagawa, a senior lecturer at Kyoto University and a member of its Inner Ear Research Group, will work with about 10 scientists from Boehringer. The team will research ways to regenerate hair cells in the inner ear, which convert sound waves into electrical signals and send them to the brain.
The partnership will begin in April and last three years. The research will likely cost tens of millions of yen (10 million yen equals $88,950) a year. This is an unusual move for Kyoto University, which rarely works with foreign pharmaceutical companies from the initial stage of drug development.
Sensorineural hearing loss, one of the most common disabilities, is caused by damage to hair cells or nerves in the inner ear. Although curing this condition completely is regarded as difficult, a number of research breakthroughs opening up potential treatment avenues have been announced recently.