California Biotechnology Inc. has acquired exclusive worldwiderights to a growth factor that may help heal the tissues liningthe lung and digestive system.

Based on research conducted at Children's Hospital in Boston,Cal Bio anticipates a role for heparin-binding epidermal growthfactor-like growth factor (HB-EGF) in diseases such asulcerative colitis, adult respiratory distress syndrome andgastroesophageal reflux. The company estimates a U.S. marketof 600,000 patients with ulcerative colitis and a $900 millionmarket for the respiratory distress syndrome, spokeswomanVirginia Walker told BioWorld.

HB-EGF ties into Cal Bio's tissue-repair program. It could beused to follow treatment with the company's recombinant lungsurfactant in the respiratory distress syndrome, to promotehealing after breathing function is rescued, Walker said.

Cal Bio will hold rights to patents that have been filed on HB-EGF and will continue to support the research at Children'sHospital, as well as compensate the Boston center for rights tothe factor. The company declined to specify the financial terms.

The Mountain View, Calif., company expects to file aninvestigational new drug application on the growth factorwithin a year, Walker said.

Cal Bio's stock (NASDAQ:CBIO) closed at $23.88, up 50 cents. --Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

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