Roche has entered into an exclusive partnership with Versant Ventures, healthcare venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, Calif., and Inception Sciences, a San Diego-based drug discovery company, to create a drug discovery incubator, Inception 3, for the treatment of sensorineural hearing loss.
"This deal structure is unique in that it enables us to pursue exciting, emerging science and develop it in partnership with venture capital and pioneers in this field," said Shafique Virani, global head of neuroscience partnering, Roche. "The collaboration construct further gives us the flexibility in externalizing our R&D fixed cost base into an operationally nimble new company to achieve this."
The collaboration will focus on creating novel drug therapies that target inner ear hair cell protection and regeneration in the cochlea. Inception 3 will incorporate an innovative technology platform from Stanford University coupled with excellence in drug discovery from the ex-Amira Pharmaceuticals team at Inception Sciences, under the leadership of Peppi Prasit. Versant will provide equity financing to the company and Roche will fund the research based on a series of milestones. Roche retains an exclusive option to acquire Inception 3 upon a first lead compound reaching the filing stage of an investigational new drug (IND) application.
"Our strategy at Roche Neuroscience is to focus on areas of unmet medical need where we understand the biological mechanism of disease," said Luca Santarelli, global head of Roche Neuroscience. With no approved pharmaceutical therapies, the unmet medical need of of sensorineural hearing loss is very high.
"Due to significant advances in unraveling the biological basis of sensorineural hearing loss,” continued Santarelli, “we decided to build a significant external R&D effort in this area in partnership with world-class scientists, entrepreneurs and investors."