Rare Daily Staff

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Decibel Therapeutics both Orphan Drug Designation and Rare Pediatric Disease Designation for the company’s lead gene therapy product candidate, DB-OTO, for the treatment of patients with otoferlin-related congenital hearing loss.

OTOF is a large protein expressed in cochlear inner hair cells that enables communication between the sensory cells of the inner ear and the auditory nerve by regulating synaptic transmission. Newborns born with mutations in the OTOF gene have fully developed structures within the inner ear. However, these newborns have profound hearing loss because signaling between the ear and the brain is disrupted.

DB-OTO is a dual-vector adeno-associated virus (AAV) investigational gene therapy product candidate designed to restore hearing to individuals with profound, congenital hearing loss caused by mutations in the otoferlin gene. The program, developed in collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, uses a proprietary, cell-selective promoter to precisely control gene expression in cochlear hair cells. DB-OTO is in preclinical studies, and Decibel expects to initiate clinical testing in 2022.

“Preclinical studies support the potential of DB-OTO to provide hearing to children born with profound hearing loss due to a mutation of the otoferlin gene,” said Heather Wolff, vice president of clinical Development Operations of Decibel.

The FDA grants Rare Pediatric Disease designation for serious or life-threatening diseases with manifestations in individuals aged from birth to 18 years, including access to the FDA’s expedited review and approval process. The designation makes DB-OTO eligible for a Rare Pediatric Disease Priority Review voucher upon approval of the therapy by the FDA.

The vouchers can be used to reduce the time of an FDA new drug approval review to six months from ten months. The vouchers are potentially lucrative because they are transferable. Most recently, Albireo sold a priority review voucher for $105 million.

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