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$100,000 boost to fund gene therapy research for hearing loss

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

04/07/22 - Congratulations to Dr Elaine Wong, Lead Scientist at Ear Science Institute Australia and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Curtin University and UWA, for being awarded $100,000 under the WA Government’s Near-miss Awards for Emerging Mid-Career Leaders.

Dr Wong leads the team working on emerging and world-leading research to develop gene therapy to repair and regenerate hearing, utilising nanotechnology to target three genes that are essential supporting cells in the cochlea.

Dr Elaine Wong works alongside a dedicated team including Professor Marcus Atlas, Associate Professor Hani Al-Salami, Dr Daniel Brown, and Dr Armin Mooranian on novel nano-targeted gene therapy for hearing loss.

"This grant will support our ongoing work in gene therapy. I am very privileged to lead an amazing team as we build on our knowledge and understanding of this ground-breaking life science area", Dr Wong said.

"Dr Wong’s project in gene-therapy using nanotechnology is advancing our insights on treating hearing loss and is a key strategic project at Ear Science. Collectively these projects will use small molecules, drugs, genes and scaffolds via advanced nanotechnological platforms to revolutionise our approach to treating hearing loss,” said Associate Professor and Head of Hearing Therapeutics Department at Ear Science, Hani Al-Salami.

Hearing loss affects 1 in 6 Australians and over 430 million people worldwide. Most commonly, this is caused by the permanent loss of hair cells in the cochlea. Dr Wong leads one of three laboratories in the world with the technology to transform ordinary human cells into stem cells and cells that have some of the functions of hair cells.

"This grant will further research to better understand the cochlea cells that support these hair cells as we move towards curing hearing loss. Organoids will be used to test this new therapy with the hope of creating functional replacement cells to reverse hearing loss. It is truly very exciting to be a part of this research", said Dr Wong.

“Dr Elaine Wong’s work is critical to the future of how we tackle the ever-growing issue of hearing loss the world over. The WA Government’s acknowledgement of the importance of her work to the health of our community is inspiring,” said Sandra Bellekom, CEO of Ear Science Institute Australia.

The WA Near-miss Awards (WANMA) Ideas Grants 2021 program has a total funding pool of over $2.4 million for the WA health and medical research sector.

The WANMA program is funded by the State Government’s Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund. This program supports WA researchers who have narrowly missed out on a highly sought-after National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Ideas Grant in 2021.

Click here for the full list of successful recipients for the WA Near Miss Awards: Ideas Grants 2021 program |



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