Hearing Aid: Decibel Therapeutics CEO Laurence Reid Talks to Close to the Edge

Taking a gene therapy approach, Decibel targets various forms of hereditary deafness (single-gene disorders) as well as other auditory and balance disorders.

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Laurence Reid, PhD, the British ex-pat CEO of Decibel Therapeutics, has built an impressive resume over the past three decades in the biotech industry. After moving to Boston for his postdoc, Reid’s first gig away from the bench was as a professional journal editor with Cell Press in Harvard Square. His first industry job was with Millennium Pharmaceuticals, one of a handful of companies driving the genomics revolution in the early to mid ‘90s.

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After a decade at Millennium, including a spell as the company’s General Manager in the U.K., Reid joined Ensemble Therapeutics, a drug discovery start-up co-founded by David Liu, as chief business officer. He held the same title for four-and-a-half years at Alnylam before being named chief executive officer at Warp Drive Bio, a company developing natural products from microbial genomics to target “undruggable” proteins. In 2018, Warp Drive sold its pipeline to Revolution Medicines.

After a 12-month break, a revitalized Reid took the reins of Decibel, succeeding his former Millennium colleague Steven Holtzman about 18 months ago. Taking a gene therapy approach, Decibel is targeting various forms of hereditary deafness (single-gene disorders) as well as other auditory and balance disorders.

Reid took Decibel public in early 2021, raising almost $125 million. The markets haven’t reacted too kindly, in part because of delays in patient recruitment for the Phase I trial of DB-020 for cisplatin-induced hearing loss. But Reid is confident that the tide will turn as Decibel’s other lead programs, including DB-ATO for the regeneration of hair cells in the inner ear for the treatment of bilateral vestibulopathy, progress towards the clinic.

In Close to the Edge, Episode 6, Reid talks about his career highlights and turning points leading up to his role at Decibel; the company’s strategy and prospects; its business partnerships including a manufacturing deal with Catalent; the future of genetic therapies; and the pain of England’s defeat in the final of EURO 2020.

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