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A breath of fresh air
March 2012
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


MECHELEN, Belgium—In keeping with its strong interest in respiratory indications, Almirall SA recently formed a three-year integrated drug discovery alliance with drug discovery service provider BioFocus, an affiliate of Galapagos NV.
The alliance is focused on delivering drug development candidates targeted to a key respiratory target of interest to Almirall. Per the terms of the agreement, BioFocus will make use of its integrated drug discovery capabilities, and Almirall will contribute its respiratory knowledge to the effort. The two companies will perform the work jointly, and the total value of the collaboration could reach $10.1 million. No additional terms were disclosed.  
"We selected BioFocus for this alliance because of the excellent technology and scientific fit between both companies," Dr. Bertil Lindmark, chief scientific officer and executive director of R&D at Almirall, said in a press release.  
Dr. Chris Newton, senior vice president of Galapagos Services and managing director of BioFocus, says Almirall represents an ideal partner, given the nature of the alliance and the fact that both companies share in the decision-making process.
"It is a truly collaborative deal," says Newton. "They've partnered one of their research projects with BioFocus, the way they're working is very open and collaborative, and BioFocus really likes that. So as a potential partner, it's what we call one of the best-in-class type opportunities for us."
The alliance is not the first time the two companies have worked together, as Newton notes that "we've been working extensively together already." The two announced another collaboration agreement on Nov. 15, 2011, to find new compounds against targets of interest to Almirall, which would be used for projects aimed at finding treatments for respiratory and inflammatory conditions. In a press release regarding that deal, Lindmark noted that Almirall was "impressed by the depth of the BioFocus technology platforms, the size, content and diversity of the available compound decks and the obvious strength and experience of the scientists that will be engaged on our projects."  
Almirall researches, develops and markets proprietary research and development medicines in a variety of therapeutics areas, including asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), psoriasis and other dermatological conditions. The company currently has four drug candidates in its pipeline for respiratory indications, three for COPD and one for asthma/COPD. One candidate—aclidinium bromide, a long-acting antimuscarinic for the maintenance treatment of COPD—is in the middle of the registration application process in the United States and the European Union. Almirall announced on Feb. 24 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Pulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee voted 12 to 2 in favor of approving the drug's NDA. Another COPD candidate and the asthma/COPD candidate have expected registration application dates of 2014. The expected application date for the third COPD candidate is undisclosed.
Almirall did not respond to requests for additional comments.  
BioFocus also has "significant experience in doing drug discovery in respiratory disease," Newton notes, saying that the company works with other parties in that therapeutic field. Neurodegenerative disease is a field of growing interest for the company, he adds, as is epigenetics, in which BioFocus recently launched a new initiative.
"We do specialize in very difficult projects which can be truly scientifically difficult, but I'd also say that we work with some very clever people as well, and clever people actually know the problems and understand the challenges that we are engaged upon, and that helps," says Newton. "It's not a mismatch of expectation, which can be very damaging."
"We are delighted to form a drug discovery alliance with one of Europe's leading research-based pharmaceutical companies," Newton says.  

Galapagos licenses GSK compounds  
MECHELEN, Belgium—Galapagos NV announced Feb. 21 that it has exercised am option to exclusively license investigational compound GLPG0778 and its corresponding back-up compound GLPG0555, both discovered and developed within GlaxoSmithKline PLC's (GSK) immuno-inflammatory alliance with Galapagos.
GSK will have the right to continue the clinical development of these candidate compounds. Galapagos will receive an unspecified option fee payment from GSK and is eligible to receive more than $45 million in future milestones, plus royalties. GLPG0778 was identified and progressed to a successful option exercise within 30 months, making the transition from committing to the target to clinical proof-of -mechanism in five years.  
"GLPG0778 and GLPG0555 are the first Galapagos alliance compounds to be in-licensed into a large pharma portfolio," said Onno van de Stolpe, CEO of Galapagos, in a statement. "We are excited to follow the future development and potential commercialization of GLPG0778 and GLPG0555 by GSK. "
Code: E031207



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