March 13, 2008

VentureWire

Hydra Biosciences Feels No Pain With $34M

Hydra Biosciences Inc., which is developing novel ion channel-targeted drugs for pain and other conditions, has raised a $34 million Series C round to move its first two products into clinical trials next year, VentureWire has learned.Return investor Advanced Technology Ventures led the round, joined by the venture capital arm of Biogen Idec Inc., a new investor, said Chief Executive Russell Herndon. All of Hydra's previous venture backers participated in the round, which closed in December, Herndon said. They include Abingworth Management, BioVentures Investors, New Enterprise Associates and Polaris Venture Partners.The Cambridge, Mass.-based company has now raised a total of $63 million. Its valuation is undisclosed.The Series C funds will enable Hydra to launch Phase I trials for two pain therapies that take aim at a specific group of ion channels, the transient receptor potential family. Ion channels, which govern the flow of ions in and out of cells, are involved in many conditions, including pain, hypertension, cystic fibrosis and cardiac arrhythmias. They have proven to be good targets - medicines acting on them include GlaxoSmithKline PLC's Lamictal, used to treat epilepsy; Norvasc, sold by Pfizer Inc. for hypertension and angina; and the anesthetic lidocaine.The molecules within the transient receptor potential channel family that Hydra targets have not been addressed by existing drugs, Herndon said, so the company has potential to deliver first-in-class treatments for pain and other indications. Pain is a particularly large opportunity - more than 50 million people worldwide suffer from inflammatory pain, such as the pain from osteoarthritis, and millions more endure post-operative, back and diabetic neuropathic pain.The initial clinical studies will likely be exploratory trials to determine what type of pain - such as acute, chronic or neuropathic - the compounds are best suited for, according to Herndon. With the market withdrawal of Vioxx, and the side effects and abuse potential of many other pain therapies, there's great need for new approaches.Because Hydra's drugs work through new mechanisms, the company hopes that they will not have any abuse potential, Herndon said. In addition to pain, Hydra also has considered cardiovascular, renal and pulmonary indications for other products in its pipeline.Hydra previously was involved in another business line as well: regenerative medicine. The company, formed in 2001, had sought to discover proteins and small molecules that reprogram a patient's cells to restore damaged or injured tissue. After an analysis, however, Hydra concluded that the ion channel program afforded the best opportunity to generate significant near-term value, according to Herndon. Since January 2007 it has concentrated on its ion channel therapies.Hydra has 36 employees. It did not add any new board members with this round.