A breath of fresh air

Almirall, BioFocus announce respiratory alliance

Kelsey Kaustinen
MECHELEN, Belgium—In keeping with its strong interest inrespiratory indications, Almirall SA recently formed a three-year integrateddrug discovery alliance with drug discovery service provider BioFocus, anaffiliate of Galapagos NV.
 
The alliance is focused on delivering drug developmentcandidates targeted to a key respiratory target of interest to Almirall. Perthe terms of the agreement, BioFocus will make use of its integrated drugdiscovery capabilities, and Almirall will contribute its respiratory knowledgeto the effort. The two companies will perform the work jointly, and the totalvalue of the collaboration could reach $10.1 million. No additional terms weredisclosed.
 
 
"We selected BioFocus for this alliance because of theexcellent technology and scientific fit between both companies," Dr. BertilLindmark, chief scientific officer and executive director of R&D atAlmirall, said in a press release.
 
 
Dr. Chris Newton, senior vice president of GalapagosServices and managing director of BioFocus, says Almirall represents an idealpartner, given the nature of the alliance and the fact that both companiesshare in the decision-making process.
 
"It is a truly collaborative deal," says Newton. "They'vepartnered one of their research projects with BioFocus, the way they're workingis very open and collaborative, and BioFocus really likes that. So as apotential partner, it's what we call one of the best-in-class typeopportunities for us."
 
The alliance is not the first time the two companies haveworked together, as Newton notes that "we've been working extensively togetheralready." The two announced another collaboration agreement on Nov. 15, 2011,to find new compounds against targets of interest to Almirall, which would beused for projects aimed at finding treatments for respiratory and inflammatoryconditions. In a press release regarding that deal, Lindmark noted thatAlmirall was "impressed by the depth of the BioFocus technology platforms, thesize, content and diversity of the available compound decks and the obvious strengthand experience of the scientists that will be engaged on our projects."
 
 
Almirall researches, develops and markets proprietaryresearch and development medicines in a variety of therapeutics areas,including asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonarydisease (COPD), psoriasis and other dermatological conditions. The companycurrently has four drug candidates in its pipeline for respiratory indications,three for COPD and one for asthma/COPD. One candidate—aclidinium bromide, a long-actingantimuscarinic for the maintenance treatment of COPD—is in the middle of theregistration application process in the United States and the European Union.Almirall announced on Feb. 24 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration'sPulmonary-Allergy Drugs Advisory Committee voted 12 to 2 in favor of approvingthe drug's NDA. Another COPD candidate and the asthma/COPD candidate haveexpected registration application dates of 2014. The expected application datefor the third COPD candidate is undisclosed. 
 
Almirall did not respond to requests for additionalcomments.
 
 
BioFocus also has "significant experience in doing drugdiscovery in respiratory disease," Newton notes, saying that the company workswith other parties in that therapeutic field. Neurodegenerative disease is afield of growing interest for the company, he adds, as is epigenetics, in whichBioFocus recently launched a new initiative.
 
"We do specialize in very difficult projects which can betruly scientifically difficult, but I'd also say that we work with some veryclever people as well, and clever people actually know the problems andunderstand the challenges that we are engaged upon, and that helps," saysNewton. "It's not a mismatch of expectation, which can be very damaging."
 
"We are delighted to form a drug discovery alliance with oneof Europe's leading research-based pharmaceutical companies," Newton says.
 
 

 
Galapagos licenses GSK compounds
 
 
MECHELEN, Belgium—Galapagos NV announced Feb. 21 that it hasexercised am option to exclusively license investigational compound GLPG0778and its corresponding back-up compound GLPG0555, both discovered and developedwithin GlaxoSmithKline PLC's (GSK) immuno-inflammatory alliance with Galapagos.
 
GSK will have the right to continue the clinical developmentof these candidate compounds. Galapagos will receive an unspecified option feepayment from GSK and is eligible to receive more than $45 million in future milestones, plus royalties.
GLPG0778 was identified and progressed to a successfuloption exercise within 30 months, making the transition from committing to thetarget to clinical proof-of -mechanism in five years.
 
 
"GLPG0778 andGLPG0555 are the first Galapagos alliance compounds to be in-licensed into alarge pharma portfolio," said Onno van de Stolpe, CEO of Galapagos, in astatement. "We are excited to follow the future development and potentialcommercialization of GLPG0778 and GLPG0555 by GSK."

Kelsey Kaustinen

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