Phenotypic Optimization of Urea–Thiophene Carboxamides To Yield Potent, Well Tolerated, and Orally Active Protective Agents against Aminoglycoside-Induced Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a major public health concern with no pharmaceutical intervention for hearing protection or restoration. Using zebrafish neuromast hair cells, a robust model for mammalian auditory and vestibular hair cells, we identified a urea–thiophene carboxamide, 1 (ORC-001), as protective against aminoglycoside antibiotic (AGA)-induced hair cell death. The 50% protection (HC50) concentration conferred by 1 is 3.2 μM with protection against 200 μM neomycin approaching 100%. Compound 1 was sufficiently safe and drug-like to validate otoprotection in an in vivo rat hearing loss model. We explored the structure–activity relationship (SAR) of this compound series to improve otoprotective potency, improve pharmacokinetic properties and eliminate off-target activity. We present the optimization of 1 to yield 90 (ORC-13661). Compound 90 protects mechanosensory hair cells with HC50 of 120 nM and demonstrates 100% protection in the zebrafish assay and superior physiochemical, pharmacokinetic, and toxicologic properties, as well as complete in vivo protection in rats.