Washington Editor

Several big-name investment firms were part of a group that helped Hydra Biosciences Inc. raise about $18.9 million in a Series B financing aimed at funding the company's regenerative medicine program.

Matthew Gantz, Hydra's president and CEO, told BioWorld Today the company was able to attract the likes of Lilly BioVentures, Abbott Laboratories and Polaris Venture Partners because the firms recognized the value of Hydra's product-focused business strategy.

"They [recognize] that we have the ability to translate our novel innovative science into first-class products for large markets with high unmet medical needs, and they also view us as leaders in the exciting field of regenerative medicine and that our efforts have the potential to result in breakthrough medicines," said Gantz, who joined Hydra three months ago. Gantz is the former head of Chiron Corp.'s biopharmaceutical business in London.

Hydra's core molecular generation program, with an initial focus on cardiac regeneration, is complemented by programs in novel vascular therapeutics and drugs targeting ion channels.

The company, located in Cambridge, Mass., uses genomics, signal transduction and assays for cell dedifferentiation and redifferentiation. With that science, company officials believe they will discover proteins and small molecules that are able to reprogram a patient's mature cells to become cells that multiply and replace damaged or destroyed cells.

Incorporated in June 2001 on the work of founders Laurie Keating, Mark Keating, David Clapham and Dean Li, the firm anticipates having its first candidate in the clinic "in a few years," Gantz said.

Nick Colangelo, a managing director at Lilly BioVentures, the investment arm of Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, told BioWorld Today Hydra's molecular regeneration approach holds great promise for an advancement in patient care. Furthermore, he said, "This is really a seasoned and accomplished senior management team."

The newest investor in the round was BioVentures Investors, of Cambridge, Mass. Existing investors who participated in the Series B were Polaris (Hydra's largest shareholder), and Advanced Technology Ventures, both of Waltham, Mass.; Abingworth Managing Ltd., of Palo Alto, Calif.; New Enterprise Associates, of Baltimore; Abbott, of Abbott Park, Ill.; and Boston Medical Investors, of Cambridge.

Hydra struck its first drug development deal in October 2002 with Abbott. The deal is twofold - one part focuses on proliferative vascular disease while the other is in an undisclosed area. Financial details were not disclosed, though it was reported that Abbott made an equity investment in Hydra. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 10, 2002.)

Hydra raised $9.3 million in its Series A completed in July 2002. (See BioWorld Today, July 26, 2002.)

Currently the company has about $25 million in cash, enough to take it through early 2007, Gantz said. In addition to investing cash in development programs, Gantz said over the next year or so he plans to expand his staff from 18 to 25 or 28. Among new hires, Gantz might be looking for someone to handle business development.

Lilly BioVentures' Colangelo will join Hydra's board.