Queensland biotech start-up Augmented Bionics has raised $650,000 to develop a non-surgical alternative to cochlear implants, thanks to connections made on a TIQ mission to a major US conference last year.

The new funding, led by international intellectual property commercialisation company IP Group, will support clinical trials for the bionic ear later this year.

The Brisbane company attended BIO — the world’s largest gathering of biotech and pharma industry players — in Philadelphia as part of the Queensland delegation supported by TIQ in June 2019.

Augmented Bionics’ Co-founder and CEO Viraj Agnihotri said participating in BIO 2019 and the BIO Queensland – Investment Seminar had been transformational for the company.

‘The companies pitching at the investment seminar were the finest in Queensland and being able to present was an excellent chance to pitch our technology to major global biotech investors,’ Mr Agnihotri said.

‘It was right after we finished our pitch that I met representatives from IP Group and began discussions.’

Globally, millions of people with severe hearing loss are unable to access hearing technologies like cochlear implants due to high costs and the need for surgery.

Augmented Bionics hopes to address this need with a wearable, non-surgical bionic ear that aims to offer the same functionality as a cochlear implant.

Mr Agnihotri said the $650,000 in funding would enable the company to undertake pre-clinical and clinical proof-of-concept testing.

‘Our aim is to establish that our tech works and is safe and efficient,’ he said.

‘Then we will recruit volunteers who need a cochlear implant but can’t or don’t want to get one for clinical trials in early 2021.

‘Initially we hope to enable them to hear crude sounds, but we want to reach a point where they can understand speech and clearly discern it from environmental sound.’

The bionic ear will undergo 3–4 years of development and clinical testing, with the goal of bringing it to market in 2025.

TIQ Principal Trade and Investment Officer Alita Singer congratulated Augmented Bionics on their funding success.

‘It’s great to see a Queensland biotech start-up that’s developing technology to meet an incredibly pressing clinical need secure international investment,’ she said.

‘TIQ is proud to have invited Augmented Bionics to be a part of our investment seminar at BIO in Philadelphia and we look forward continuing to support the company as it develops its bionic ear and raises further capital.’

Mr Agnihotri expects the benefits from presenting at BIO 2019 to continue long-term.

‘For any biotech company, the USA is the biggest market so it’s great that we found some contacts during our time at BIO that can provide access to US-based investment,’ he said.

‘After our next phase of capital raising of $2–3 million commencing later this year, we’re looking at needing to raise a further $8–9 million and we’d want to go to the USA again to do that.’

Supporting start-ups and Queensland’s biotech sector are priorities under the Queensland Trade and Investment Strategy 2017–2022.

If you’re a start-up or tech firm looking for export support, connect with TIQ today.