Funding tinnitus research: looking for a cure
Our vision is a world where no one suffers from tinnitus.
Current treatment options, whilst effective at improving quality of life and reducing tinnitus-associated psychological distress, leave many of those living with tinnitus dissatisfied. “We need a cure” is a comment we hear often. People with tinnitus want their tinnitus loudness reduced and many would prefer a drug based solution over other options.
Over the last few years, there have been a number of pharmaceutical trials that have ultimately failed but have been instrumental in showing what is needed to develop a cure. We have been in discussions with many of the companies involved in these trials, learning the lessons and gaining a better understanding of what is needed to push forwards drug development work for tinnitus.
We have captured the learning of this in a paper, ‘Why haven’t we cured tinnitus?’ (McFerran et al 2019) which also includes the Map of Tinnitus, conceived by us to look at how to progress towards a cure. There have been a number of papers recently, all pointing in the same direction in terms of what is needed for a cure. There is broad agreement on what is needed to move the field forwards, in particular reliable and reproducible objective outcome measures (Cederroth et al 2018, Jackson et al 2018) and improved and standardised animal and human models of tinnitus (Tzounopoulos et al 2019).
What are we doing about it?
We are working with researchers across the world on the Map of Tinnitus research, which outlines the current state of knowledge about tinnitus. This has allowed us to identify potential research areas and gaps. From this learning, we have determined the following research priorities, which will shape the research we look to fund in the future:
- Identification of tinnitus biomarker(s)
- Development of reliable objective measure(s) of tinnitus
- A better understanding of animal models of tinnitus and their relevance to human tinnitus research
- Recognition that tinnitus is a heterogeneous condition and development of strategies to manage that heterogeneity in a research environment
- Identification of subtypes of tinnitus.
By publishing these goals, working collaboratively with the research and clinical community, we can ensure that promising targets are investigated. We have already formed a working partnership with three academic institutions to progress research in one of our identified priority areas, and we hope to announce details of our first project soon. Others are in the pipeline.
However, in order to progress research from discussion to the laboratory or clinic, money has to be found. There is a striking differential in tinnitus funding compared to other conditions with a similar prevalence and health burden (Cederroth, Canlon, Langguth 2013). Although we do not have the resources to address this imbalance we are pleased to be able to announce that we are opening two research funding rounds to make sure that this vital research happens.
What funding will be available?
There will be two funding streams available.
Large Research Grant programme
Thanks to generous gifts in Wills, there is up to £125,000 available to be spent on a research project (or projects) that best meet our agreed research priorities. This is the largest grant funding round announced by the BTA. The fund may be spent on one project, or distributed around more than one.
Small Research Grant programme
Up to £10,000 per year is available for the next three years for smaller projects which meet our research priorities. Additionally, we will also consider projects looking to develop ‘a novel approach to curing tinnitus.’ The fund may be spent on one project, or distributed around more than one.
Who is eligible to apply for these grants?
Our Small Research Grants programme will be open to researchers and clinicians based in the United Kingdom. Our Large Research Grant programme will be open to researchers based world-wide, in recognition of the collaborative and international nature of tinnitus research.
What happens next?
We will formally launch the calls for bids for both programmes in the next few months. Applications for the Small Research Grants will close in September, and the submissions reviewed by people with tinnitus and our Professional Advisers’ Committee, with final decisions made by our Trustees in November, when the successful applicants will be notified.
The Large Research Grant programme will follow a similar path, with the funding round announced in November. The deadline for submissions will be March 2020, with the successful project(s) announced in May of that year.
How can I help support tinnitus research?
We receive no direct Government funding, and all our work is paid for by donations and grants from members and supporters. Every little contribution makes a difference – you can make a donation via our website, or over the phone. Or further ahead, leaving a gift in your Will could really help – over half our funds for research come from gifts in Wills.
You can also support research with time, rather than money. Keep a look out on our website and social media, as we publicise opportunities to participate in research.
What does the future hold?
We don’t know when a cure, or cures for tinnitus will come. We do know that momentum is building, and that there is every reason to believe that a cure is possible. We will unceasingly drive tinnitus research forward until our vision is achieved. Of course, we will continue to support people with tinnitus and those caring for them. We will promote evidence based tinnitus management techniques, provide reliable information and facilitate peer support, so that the impact of tinnitus is lessened whilst work towards a cure progresses.
If you would like to be kept in touch with news about the launch of the funding rounds, the winning applications and research news in general, please sign up for our monthly newsletter Focus by clicking here.
McFerran DJ, Stockdale DJ, Holme R, Large CH, Baguley DM. Why is there no cure for tinnitus? Frontiers in Neuroscience, August 2019, DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2019.00802
Cederroth CR, Dyhrfjeld-Johnsen J, Langguth B. An update: emerging drugs for tinnitus. Expert opinion on emerging drugs. December 2018, DOI: 10.1080/14728214.2018.1555240
Jackson R, Vijendren A, Phillips J. Objective Measures of Tinnitus: a Systematic Review. Otology and Neurotology 2018. 40: 154-163.
Tzounopoulos T, Balaban C, Zitelli L, Palmer C. Towards a Mechanistic-Driven Precision Medicine Approach for Tinnitus. Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s10162-018-00709-9
Cederroth CR, Canlon B, Langguth B. Hearing loss and tinnitus – are funders and industry listening? Nature Biotechnology November 2013. DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2736