A soft focus on HIV/Hep: Galapagos-Idenix to collaborate

Randall C Willis
STORY UPDATE
 
MECHELEN, Belgium—February 2, 2006—Continuing its deal-making efforts, Galapagos NV announced it has extended three research agreements with BASF Aktiengesellschaft, based in Ludwigshafen, Germany, initially undertaken in 2005. BASF will pay compound supply and access fees and will fund research activities with the total contract value exceeding € 700,000.
 
 
MECHELEN, Belgium—Genomics-based drug discovery company Galapagos NV announced it would collaborate with Idenix Pharmaceuticals, based in Cambridge, Mass., on the development of therapeutics targeting HIV and hepatitis. The two-year contract is worth up to $2.5 million.
 
According to Mr. Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos CEO, the collaboration with Idenix arises from the marketing efforts of Galapagos's recently acquired BioFocus service division and is a result of the success of a previous collaboration between the companies. "BioFocus' compound collections and expertise fit very well with what is needed in the next steps of Idenix's HIV and hepatitis drug discovery programs," he says.
 
Under the terms of the contract, BioFocus will provide Idenix access to its SoftFocus chemical compound collections. Each SoftFocus library comprises about 1000 compounds built on unique single or multiple scaffolds and addresses specific classes of proteins such as GPCRs and kinases.
 
"Idenix is focused on expanding and leveraging its in-house discovery capabilities," says Dr. Dick Storer, Idenix senior vice president of chemistry, who worked with BioFocus previously. "The services BioFocus provides will be used to complement Idenix's efforts including fuller utilization of Idenix's recently enhanced screening capabilities."
 
BioFocus will also provide expertise in library design and synthesis, as well as lead optimization services. While van de Stolpe will not elaborate on the nature of the services, he says the company offers state-of-the-art expertise in medicinal chemistry and lead optimization, which should help to push Idenix products to the clinic.
 
In exchange for these products and services, Idenix will provide payments upon the realization of specific goals related to identification of preclinical candidates.
 
According to Storer, outsourcing will give Idenix access to additional chemical starting points and the ability to accelerate its in-house activities, which have largely been built on nucleoside and non-nucleoside compounds as antiviral drugs.
 
"In antiviral treatment, combination therapy is a key component of disease management," he says. "Drugs with complementary mechanisms of action, when combined, can improve efficacy and reduce the risk of resistance. Having identified nucleosides that may serve as 'cornerstones' of future antiviral drug combination therapy, Idenix is looking to expand the chemical repertoire and diversify the chemical class of compounds, which we seek to develop."
 
For Galapagos, the deal gives proof to the wisdom of the BioFocus acquisition. "At Galapagos, we already had seen how working together with BioFocus [pre-acquisition] significantly accelerated our rheumatoid arthritis drug candidates through to a proof-of-principle," Van de Stolpe says. "Post-acquisition, we expect to see similar acceleration across our proprietary therapeutic pipeline in bone and joint diseases, as well as in our Alzheimer's disease program."
 
He is quick to add that the acquisition also combines strengths in genomics-based target discovery, specialized compound libraries, and biology and medicinal chemistry expertise, bringing the combined companies the critical mass to land higher value, turnkey drug discovery projects.
 
"It is too early in the post-merger era to expect deals combining both the Galapagos and BioFocus expertise, but we are expecting that such synergy deals will arise," he says. "We aim to grow the BioFocus service business through our integrated, gene-to-preclinical drug discovery offering."

Randall C Willis

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