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Advanced Cochlear Systems Secures NIH Grant for R&D on Electrode Technology

New Electrodes Can Vastly Improve Hearing Performance and Reduce Manufacturing Costs

SNOQUALMIE, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 12, 2002--Advanced Cochlear Systems (ACS) today announced that it has received a $750,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support continued research and development of high density electrodes for cochlear implants.

The Phase II grant will concentrate on continuing the development of a high density electrode capable of delivering discrete electrical stimuli to more than three times the number of sites within the cochlea that current technology provides. This proprietary electrode technology will complement the advanced focusing and signal processing techniques also under development by ACS.

"Our goal is to replace the incremental improvements of the past two decades with a new technology platform for hearing benefit through cochlear implants," said John Hrobsky, President of ACS. "The combination of high-density electrodes, our proprietary advanced speech signal processing technologies that encode sound in a completely new way plus a unique optical data link to more efficiently transfer data to the implant will make it possible to stimulate the auditory nerve in a more precise fashion and provide the implant recipient with approximately 100 times more detailed sound information than with current implant technology."

The high density electrode will be manufactured using proprietary, advanced micro-electro-mechanical techniques that are expected to significantly reduce manufacturing costs compared to the manual assembly required by existing electrode technology.

The first phase of the grant, received by ACS in July 2000, resulted in the successful assembly and testing of several different prototype electrodes. The most promising designs will be the subject of the Phase II grant. ACS has previously received five SBIR grants covering other technology components of its cochlear implant system. SBIR grants are awarded to small businesses that engage in research and development and have the potential for commercialization. Phase II grants are awarded only after technical merit and feasibility of the project have been established in Phase I.

People with normal hearing can determine the location of a sound because the sound waves arrive at each ear at slightly different times. Current cochlear implants, which are normally used in only one ear, do not preserve the exact timing of a sound wave and cannot provide this important spatial information. The preservation of the timing information will make it possible for people with cochlear implants in both ears to localize the direction from which sound is coming. If approved for binaural use, this technology could provide stereo hearing for implant recipients.

Approval of bilateral implants could double the current market size, currently estimated at about $250 million annually worldwide, with a forecasted growth rate of 20 percent per year.

About 28 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss. Severe to profound hearing impairment affects approximately 1 million people in the U.S. and more than twice that number worldwide. The societal costs of deafness are staggering. Providing a suitable educational environment for deaf children is more expensive than for those with any other disability. More than half of profoundly deaf adults face chronic unemployment or underemployment. It is estimated that the lifetime cost of deafness, including both medical and educational costs and lost productivity, exceeds $1 million per child. The ability to restore hearing in both children and adults can greatly mitigate these outlays and offer a vastly improved quality of life.

About Advanced Cochlear Systems (ACS)

Located near Seattle, Advanced Cochlear Systems' mission is to develop and commercialize a new generation of cochlear implants that will dramatically improve speech comprehension and sound clarity for severely and profoundly deaf individuals. Founded in 1995, ACS has assembled a team of experts in cochlear neurophysiology, digital speech processing, optoelectronics, medical device packaging, high-density interconnection and bioengineering. More information is available on the Web site at www.advcoch.com.

Advanced Cochlear Systems
John Hrobsky, 425/396-5525


Firmani & Associates
Shelly F. Cohen, 206/443-9357

SOURCE: Advanced Cochlear Systems

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