No bones about partnership

Galapagos and MorphoSys see synergies in bone and joint disease partnership

Amy Swinderman
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MECHELEN, Belgium—Belgian biotech Galapagos NV and Munich, Germany-based biotech MorphoSys AG announced in late November that the companies entered a long-term, co-development partnership aimed at discovering and developing antibody therapies based on novel modes of action in bone and joint disease, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

The alliance will span all activities from target discovery to completion of proof-of-concept clinical trials of novel therapeutic antibodies. Galapagos will provide antibody targets implicated in bone and joint disease in addition to its adenoviral target discovery platform. MorphoSys will contribute antibody technologies from its Human Combinatorial Antibody Library (HuCAL) to generate fully human antibodies directed against these targets. The companies will share research and development costs and future revenues equally. Further financial details were not disclosed.

The partnership will kick off in 2009 by validating an initial set of three Galapagos targets through disease-specific in vitro and in vivo testing of the antibodies. More targets will be selected using Galapagos' target discovery platform to fuel the alliance in the coming years. If successful, the first antibody programs based on these novel targets could enter the clinic within four to five years, says Galapagos CEO Onno van de Stolpe.

"Galapagos' expertise in bone and joint disease and MorphoSys' antibody development expertise will be brought to bear on the alliance programs," he says. "Galapagos' novel targets have been identified and validated making use of human primary cells, giving us confidence that the target proteins identified truly play a key role in modifying bone and joint disease, and these targets benefit from patent protection. MorphoSys' HuCAL collection of more than 15 billion fully human antibodies has enabled MorphoSys to sign more than 55 active partnered programs."

According to van de Stolpe, the alliance gives Galapagos entry to a rapidly growing market for therapeutic antibodies, which saw approximately $25 billion in sales last year and is forecasted by Datamonitor to increase to approximately $50 billion by 2013.

"By working together with MorphoSys, Galapagos can leverage its novel antibody targets in bone and joint disease, without having to build the antibody development capability itself," van de Stolpe says.

For MorphoSys, the partnership is an opportunity for the publicly-traded biotech to access novel antibody targets in disease areas with a high unmet medical need and complement its ongoing work in the area of inflammatory disease, says Dr. Simon Moroney, MorphoSys CEO.

"We were very keen to enter into an alliance with a company that we felt brought high-quality targets to the table," Moroney says. "Over the years, we have looked at a lot of targets for antibody programs, both in conjunction with our partners bringing targets to us, but also in sourcing targets for our own pipeline. I must say the attrition in considering targets was extremely high. Most targets we look at have simply not met our criteria for starting an antibody program against them. With Galapagos, we saw, for the first time, a combination of science and target capabilities, added to the intellectual property position built around the targets that was for us absolutely compelling." DDN

Amy Swinderman

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