Frequency bags $62M to advance Astellas-partnered hearing loss drug

Frequency Therapeutics CEO David Lucchino (Frequency Therapeutics)

Frequency Therapeutics has raised $62 million to take its Astellas-partnered hearing loss drug into phase 2a studies. The series C round is the latest in a series of boosts for Frequency’s attempts to tackle hearing loss through the activation of progenitor cells. 

Massachusetts-based Frequency has spent the past few years working to turn Bob Langer and Jeff Karp’s research on progenitor cells into a treatment for sensorineural hearing loss. The idea is to use small molecules to activate and differentiate stem cells, driving the proliferation of sensory cells that compensate for the problem behind some peoples’ hearing difficulties. 

Investors have bought into the idea. Six months after raising a $42 million series B round, Frequency has pulled in $62 million in series C funds. 

Perceptive Advisors led the round with the support of a syndicate featuring other new investors such as Deerfield Management. The new backers were joined by Polaris Founders Capital, Taiwania Capital Management and other investors that participated in Frequency’s previous financing rounds. The amount raised across those rounds now stands at $147 million.

Frequency’s ability to raise series B and C rounds in quick succession reflects the progress it has made over the past six months. In April, Frequency released phase 1/2 data on its lead candidate, FX-322. While primarily focused on safety, the study generated early evidence that FX-322 can treat hearing loss. Three months later, Astellas paid $80 million for the ex-U.S. rights to FX-322.

The sequence of events has given Frequency a phase 2-ready candidate and the financial clout to move it and earlier-stage candidates down the pipeline. And with Astellas on the hook for up to $545 million in milestones and crossover investors in its current syndicate, Frequency has laid a platform for pulling in more money down the line. 

Frequency’s need for, and ability to get, more money will rest on the upcoming phase 2a in hearing loss, but the science underpinning FX-322 has potential uses in other areas including remedying skin disorders, regenerating muscle and treating gastrointestinal diseases.