The 16th European Symposium on Pediatric Cochlear Implantation recognized Dr. Lee's work as one of the top three presentations
June 5, 2023 – The European Symposium on Pediatric Cochlear Implantation hosted its 16th conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, last week, boasting speakers and attendees from around the world. The event began Wednesday featuring talks from corporate giants Cochlear, MED-EL, and Advanced Bionics.
The symposium then shifted Thursday to presentations from surgeons, scientists, audiologists, speech pathologists and other cochlear implant professionals, with the conference-wide introductory session featuring Qualia Oto CMO Dr. Kenneth Lee.
Dr. Lee's abstract was accepted for an oral presentation in the Novel Implants session. However, the President of ESPCI 2023 emailed Dr. Lee shortly before the symposium began informing him that the Scientific Committee had selected his work as one of the Best Abstracts. As such, he was invited to present for the opening plenary session.
His talk, entitled “Self-Coiling Shape Memory Polymer Cochlear Implant Array Reduces Trauma and Optimizes Intracochlear Position”, highlighted the novelty of Qualia Oto’s approach in helping develop a radically superior cochlear implant.
“I was extremely honored to present our work at the opening of this conference where the world leaders in cochlear implantation finally gathered again live, post pandemic,” Dr. Lee said.
The cochlear implant, as a whole, has improved markedly over the past several decades, with CIs likely being the most successful neural prostheses to date since their first commercialization in the 1980s. The biggest advancements have been in areas related to the hardware such as the external unit of the CI, which, progressing alongside CPUs, is now smaller, is more powerful, and has a better battery life.
However, while tremendous advancements in front-end processing for electric hearing and electroacoustic stimulation have resulted in most patients gaining speech understanding, a subset of patients still find these advancements insufficient. Moreover, most all patients struggle with appreciating the subtleties and richness of more complex sounds such as music. The baseline performance has been hampered because improvements in back-end processing have been almost non-existent; the much-needed improvements in the critical electron-to-neuron interface have been stagnant for over 30 years.
Dr. Lee highlighted Qualia Oto’s solution: our novel materials, which can change shape at different temperatures, allow a cochlear implant electrode array that is straight initially to self-coil once inserted. Doing so repositions the implant adjacent to the modiolus – the central axis of the cochlea housing the auditory neurons – thereby significantly improving the electrode-to-neuron interface.
“We are fortunate and proud to have Dr. Lee as a key member of the Qualia Oto team,” CFO Benedict Voit said. “As an M.D. - Ph.D., he has deep clinical, scientific, and personal connections with the cochlear implant field, and his selection as Best Abstract is a testament to the innovation and passion that he brings to Qualia Oto. Through his presentation on the foundational aspects of our research, Dr. Lee excited the attendees – both clinical and corporate – of the impact that Qualia Oto will have on the market over the coming years.”
Dr. Lee holds an A.B. from UC Berkeley in molecular biology, as well as an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Anatomy and Neurobiology from Boston University School of Medicine. He completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary/Harvard Medical School, followed by residency at Washington University School of Medicine and a fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Current positions outside of Qualia Oto include Professor in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at UT Southwestern where he holds the John W. & Rhonda K. Pate Endowed Professorship; Director of Pediatric Otolaryngology and Chief of Specialty Surgery at Children’s Medical Center Plano; and Director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Children's Medical Center Dallas and Plano.