A Fishers life sciences company is looking to revolutionize the drugs and devices used to treat hearing loss. Monon Bioventures LLC is working with Dr. Karl Koehler from the Indiana University School of Medicine on a so-called "ear-in-a-dish." Koehler says the stem cell technology will allow scientists to better study the inner ear and the development of hearing loss. During an interview after winning Scientific Breakthrough of the Year at the 2016 Mira Awards, Koehler and Monon Bioventures Chief Executive Officer Joe Trebley said they’re looking to get the technology commercialized.
The company says, thanks to Koehler’s breakthrough, it is able to grow a functional mouse ear from stem cells in 60 days. Koehler says his team is now working to refine the process, "like turning crude oil into gasoline." He says Monon Bioventures has helped him get new grant funding to move the process forward and commercialize the technology.
Trebley says, while it is "pretty easy" to grow the outside of the ear, but the inner workings can be more difficult. He says the innovation allows scientists to look at the ear in a way it hasn’t previously been examined.
Koehler co-founded the Indiana University startup Auricyte LLC in 2014 with fellow med school researchers Eri Hashino and Gerry Oxford. It was among five "Best in Show" winners at the Venture Club’s 2015 Innovation Showcase. Fellow Mira winner Pi Labs, the company behind the Edwin the Duck smart toy, took top honors at that competition.