Hydra Biosciences Inc. entered two collaborations with Abbott Laboratories, described by Hydra's CEO as "significant transactions" for the emerging company, which is focused on developing molecular regeneration therapeutics.

In the first collaboration, the companies will continue animal studies to validate a therapy for proliferative vascular disease. The second collaboration will focus on a small-molecule drug discovery program in an undisclosed disease area, but focus on a "novel ion channel," Hydra's CEO said.

"We're really gratified because we feel like the collaborations validate the promise of two of our initiatives and the strength of the science that they are built on," Hydra CEO Laurie Keating said. "We're also really enthused about the strength and the track record of the two teams we'll be working with at Abbott."

The collaborations will provide "multiyear funding" for Cambridge, Mass.-based Hydra, Keating told BioWorld Today.

The collaborations mean undisclosed up-front payments and research funding for privately held Hydra, with the potential for milestone payments and royalties, the company said. In conjunction with the agreements, Abbott, of Abbott Park, Ill., also made an equity investment in Hydra, which brought privately held Hydra's value to more than $10 million.

Keating noted that obstructive vascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women not only in the U.S. but also throughout the developed world. She said that therapeutics for both obstructive and peripheral vascular disease would represent "very, very large markets."

"Abbott has recently dedicated substantial resources to this therapeutic area," she said.

Two of Hydra's scientific founders, Dean Li and Mark Keating, have received international recognition for the work they've done in understanding the biological mechanism responsible for peripheral vascular disease, Laurie Keating said.

The collaborations will give Abbott access to pending patents related to the work the companies will focus on - patents Hydra has exclusive rights to from the Children's Hospital Boston and the University of Utah. Mark Keating was on the faculty at the university for 10 years, and Li had an academic lab there. Li is now with Hydra, and Mark Keating is on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School as well as the scientific advisory board of Hydra.

"We're committed to making these collaborations very successful and hope we'll be a model partner," Laurie Keating said.

She described the Abbott teams as "experienced, strong and fast," and said, "We believe these collaborations are important because they will allow us to accelerate the development of two important therapies."

Hydra, which was incorporated in June 2001, reported in July that it raised $9.3 million in its first round of financing. Hydra said it uses genomics, signal transduction and assays for cell dedifferentiation and redifferentiation. Hydra said it expects to 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. (See BioWorld Today, July 26, 2002.)