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Farmington biotech receives $2M grant for hearing-loss research

BY Joe Cooper

5/30/2018
PHOTO | Frequency Therapeutics
PHOTO | Frequency Therapeutics
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy greets workers at Frequency Therapeutics in Farmington.

Massachusetts-based Frequency Therapeutics, which has a Farmington location, has received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to further its research of hearing loss caused by military service-related injuries.

The U.S. Department of Defense Hearing and Balance Research Award grant will be used to investigate Frequency's progenitor cell activation, or PCA regeneration, which is used to restore or repair tissue or cells to regain normal function.

The company said expanding its hearing restoration efforts will "increase soldier's effectiveness, reduce veteran's disabilities and increase retention of experienced soldiers," who would otherwise retire.

David Lucchino, president, co-founder and CEO of Frequency, said the federal grant validates its research as the company approaches phase two of clinical trials in hearing restoration later this year.

Studies driving the research say more than 50 percent of battlefield awareness, among active-duty soldiers, comes from hearing. Meanwhile, peak noise levels in combat increase the risk of hearing loss by 63 percent, Frequency said.

PCA regeneration targets the cause of hearing loss without removing stem cells from the body, the company said. The process, however, uses small molecules to stimulate inactive progenitor cells existing in the body to restore healthy tissue.

The innovative approach also has the potential to branch new disease-modifying therapeutics for demyelination diseases, skin disorders and gastrointestinal conditions.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy praised the Farmington company for its "groundbreaking" biomedical work and noted the success of Connecticut's biotech industry.

Murphy is touring Frequency's Farmington site and hosting an employee town hall at 3 p.m. Wednesday after naming the company as "Murphy's Innovator of the Month."

Since its inception in 2015, Frequency has maintained its presence at the UConn Health building for cell and genome sciences at 400 Farmington Ave.

A product of UConn's Technology Incubation Program (TIP), Frequency reported it raised $32 million in 2017 to continue developing therapies to restore hearing in individuals with hearing loss.