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Pioneering gene therapy trial led by Professor Manohar Bance makes international headlines

10 May 2024 Fellows

In October 2023, the first human trial for gene therapy for genetic hearing loss began. The trial, led by Clare Hall Fellow Professor Manohar Bance, was highlighted for its revolutionary potential in treating hearing loss. Earlier this week, the first results from this trial were announced in the case of 18-month-old Opal Sandy, who was born deaf but can now hear unaided. Major publications including the BBC, The Guardian, and the Washington Post covered the exciting news.

The treatment involves an infusion into the ear to replace faulty DNA that causes auditory neuropathy, a form of inherited deafness. Just a few weeks after the first treatment, Opal was able to hear loud sounds such as clapping; after six months, she had almost normal hearing for soft sounds.

Professor Manohar Bance, inaugural Professor of Otology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of Cambridge and Honorary Consultant at the Cambridge University Hospitals Trust (Addenbrookes), appointed in 2017.

Professor Bance expressed that “it’s a very joyful time” seeing the results of Opal’s trial.

“There’s been so much work, decades of work … to finally see something that actually worked in humans …. It was quite spectacular and a bit awe-inspiring really. It felt very special.” Professor Bance said in an interview with The Guardian.

The results from the trial will be presented at the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy in Baltimore, Maryland.