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Among the wealth and diversity of stakeholders that bring science out of the laboratories and closer to patients, charities are usually regarded as the hands-off funders of research. However, an increasing number of biomedical research charities have been taking a more proactive and involved role in boosting innovation in the therapeutic areas they support.

Action on Hearing Loss, the biggest UK charity dedicated to people with hearing loss and tinnitus, runs the Translational Research Initiative for Hearing (TRIH), which supports, on many fronts, the innovation in hearing therapeutics that can protect and regenerate hearing.

There are almost half a billion people in the world with disabling hearing loss and 1.1 billion young people (12-35 years old) are at risk of losing their hearing due to recreational noise (WHO, 2018). 10% of the population in the UK have tinnitus, commonly characterised as ringing in the years. Despite the high number of people with or at risk of getting hearing loss, there are currently no treatments that can protect or restore hearing.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants are the only solutions that currently exist in the market to manage hearing loss, but none of them prevent the progression of hearing loss or regenerate hearing. The number of people with hearing loss is increasing due to the growing ageing population and the links to debilitating conditions, like dementia, are becoming more evident.  The goal of the biomedical research team at Action on Hearing Loss, and specifically of the TRIH scheme, is to accelerate innovation in this area by tackling the challenges on many fronts of the innovation process.

How the TRIH scheme is benefiting young companies & academics

The TRIH runs a funding scheme that awards grants globally to academics or SMEs that are developing pharmacological, cell or gene-therapies for hearing disorders, including tinnitus. This grant allows young companies and academics to have non-dilutive funding to advance their preclinical projects to a stage that can be attractive to private investors.

The TRIH grant is currently open for Expression of Interest until the 7th April 2019. This year, Action on Hearing Loss is co-funding the TRIH grant with Fondation pour l’ Audition.

TRIH also facilitates the flow of information between academia and industry through its partnering scheme. TRIH Research Partners are organisations with a strong interest in identifying research, collaboration and/or licensing opportunities in the areas of hearing loss and tinnitus. Through this partnering scheme, these organisations can access peer-reviewed translational research projects and screen for early stage opportunities in this field. TRIH also promotes the activities of our Enabling Partners, which are organisations that offer preclinical or clinical services and expertise for the development of treatments for hearing disorders.

Another important part of the TRIH is the creation and maintenance of networks with global stakeholders involved in the development of treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus: academic researchers, clinicians, biotech and pharma companies, investors and patients.

Although money plays a big part in the innovation process, knowing where the experts and resources of a specific therapeutic area are is an equally important catalyser of innovation. TRIH gathers this knowledge and contacts in one single place and facilitates the interaction between the different stakeholders.

Through TRIH, we raise awareness for the ongoing clinical and preclinical research among the patient population by writing blogs and members magazine articles, thus helping companies recruiting patients for their studies.

The TRIH scheme aims to keep on supporting global innovation in the emerging hearing therapeutics field and adjusting to the needs of this fast-paced therapeutic area. Find all the information on the TRIH scheme on the Action for Hearing Loss website.

About the author

Dr Carina Santos is the Translational Research Manager at the biomedical research team, for Action on Hearing Loss. She manages the Translational Research Initiative for Hearing (TRIH), working globally with academics, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, clinicians, investors and patients to accelerate the development of treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus.

Carina has a PhD and postdoctoral experience in cell and molecular biology. Before joining Action on Hearing Loss, Carina worked at the Healthcare Technology Transfer office of Imperial Innovations, supporting the identification of research and technology opportunities from Imperial College London for IP protection and commercialisation.

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Otolaryngologist putting hearing aid in woman's ear on light background