Hydra Makes Progress in Pain With First Trial and New Partnership

2/15/12Follow @arleneweintraub

Two years ago, Cambridge, MA-based Hydra Biosciences generated some buzz when a Series D funding round brought its total venture haul to $69 million and it formed a pact with Cubist Pharmaceuticals to develop its non-narcotic pain drugs. Now the company’s efforts are starting to bear fruit, with two milestones reached since the start of the year.

Hydra is preparing to launch its first human test of a molecule it is developing with Lexington, MA-based Cubist (NASDAQ: CBST), CB-625, which is part of a novel class of pain drugs called TRPA1 antagonists. The regulatory filing to start that trial triggered a $5 million milestone payment from Cubist. It was the first regulatory filing under Hydra’s licensing deal with Cubist, which the companies extended last year, says Hydra CEO Russell Herndon. “Cubist is continuing to pay all the costs for development of the compound through 2012,” he says. Herndon adds that getting the first drug into clinical trials is a “huge step forward” for Hydra, which was founded in 2001.

And on February 9, Hydra formed a collaboration with Cambridge, MA-based Zalicus (NASDAQ: ZLCS) to develop multiple novel drug candidates for the treatment of pain. Zalicus will provide an up-front payment and has agreed to fund development at Hydra for two years. Although the dollar value of the deal was not announced, Herndon said in a statement about the deal that it was important for providing non-dilutive capital to fund Hydra’s internal research.

Hydra’s specialty is searching for pain drugs that are potent but that don’t have the side effect risks of opioids such as hydrocodone and morphine. TRPA1 (which stands for Transient Receptor Potential Ankyrin repeat 1) is a type of ion channel—a protein membrane that controls the flow of charged molecules in and out of cells. In animal models, Hydra has shown that targeting TRPA1 relieves pain without … Next Page »

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