Autifony Therapeutics, a UK-based biotechnology start-up specialising in hearing loss and tinnitus which has been set up by ex-GlaxoSmithKline senior scientists, has received financial backing from a couple of major investors plus the drugs giant itself.

GSK noted that it has received a 25.4% minority equity stake, representing nearly a £1.3 million investment, in Autifony, while Imperial Innovations Group and SV Life Sciences have committed to invest £5 million each. Following the £10 million funding round, GSK will own 13.2% of the firm, which has preclinical assets targeting voltage-gated ion channels, the modulation of which is thought to have potential in the treatment of hearing disorders.

Charles Large, Autifony’s co-founder and  former director of molecular and cellular biology at GSK, noted that “there are currently no pharmacological treatments available for hearing loss or tinnitus despite the increasingly large number of patients, both old and young, that suffer from these conditions". He claimed the start-up represents "an important opportunity to bring together our drug-discovery experience with the expertise of academic groups in this field", in particular University College London’s Ear Institute (UCL is a founding shareholder in Autifony).

Susan Searle, Imperial Innovations’ chief executive, said that "this is a creative approach to building new companies, leveraging established pharmaceutical assets together with the world class scientific expertise that exists at the UCL Ear Institute.” Proceeds from the funding will be used to accelerate preclinical development with the objective of commencing human trials in early 2013.