Partners take it to the next level

Previous partners Janssen Pharmaceutica and Argenta enter into integrated cancer drug discovery service agreement

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MECHELEN, Belgium—In an effort to deliver novel cancer drugcandidates, Argenta, a service division of Galapagos NV, and JanssenPharmaceutica NV have forged a drug discovery service agreement.
Terms of the agreement call for Argenta to provide medicinalchemistry and biology for a number of oncology targets selected by Jannsen.Janssen retains the option to extend the services beyond the initial set oftargets, up to a total of 15 targets.
The total contract value for Argenta for the initial phaseof the collaboration could exceed $46.2 million over a five-year period,pending the achievement of certain milestones.
Argenta's contract research includes expertise in medicinalchemistry, computer-aided drug discovery, in vitro biology, analytics, in vivo pharmacokinetics, pharmacology and world-leadingrespiratory models. Argenta was acquired by Galapagos in February for around$22 million and employs more than 140 people in the U.K., with its mainoperations in Harlow.
Onno van de Stolpe, CEO of Galapagos, says "there has beenan increased demand for longer-term, integrated deals in our services business,which access a variety of our drug discovery capabilities, and with Argenta's strongtrack record of delivering on integrated drug discovery programs, we arewell-positioned to meet this growing need."
According to Dr. Chris Newton, senior vice president ofGalapagos Services, Argenta's parent firm, the companies have worked togetherbefore, but previous collaborations were nothing of this magnitude. In 2007,Galapagos signed an accord with Janssen, which is also based in Belgium, todiscover, develop and commercialize oral small-molecule therapeutics forrheumatoid arthritis (RA), which included an approximately $20 million upfrontpayment. For each alliance program licensed by Janssen, contingent ondiscovery, development and regulatory accomplishments, Galapagos could receiveoption exercise fees and milestone payments in the neighborhood of $100million, plus royalties on net sales of each approved new RA drug, the firmnoted at that time.
"Looking to relationships within the group, BioFocus hasdone a number of projects for Janssen on a fee-for-service basis, includingdiscovery of novel targets in oncology," Newton adds.
There were other factors that made Janssen Pharmaceutica anattractive partner for this particular collaboration, Newton says, including"the willingness for Janssen to outsource a suite of fully integrated projects,playing to the strengths of a powerful integrated drug discovery CRO."
For its part, Newton says Argenta will bring to thecollaboration "a fully integrated drug discovery team of medicinal chemists,computational chemists, in vitrobiologists and ADME and pharmacokinetic scientists and a bespoke projectmanager fully versed in the translational science required for progression ofoncology projects."
The goal is for Argenta "to deliver to Janssen a certainnumber of preclinical development candidates," Newton adds, though the exactnumber wasn't released.
Argenta delivers preclinical candidate for Wellcome Trustproject
 HARLOW, U.K.—Argenta also recently concluded contractresearch support to the University of Edinburgh for a Wellcome Trust-fundedSeeding Drug Discovery Initiative (SDDI) project resulting in the successfulidentification of a preclinical candidate.
The three-year project, aimed at identifying selectiveinhibitors of the 11beta-HSD1 enzyme, resulted in the identification of a leadcandidate.
The class of compounds, which will hopefully enter human clinicaltrials next year, is being investigated as a potential drug that could slow thenatural decline in memory associated with aging. The candidate has been shownto improve cognitive and memory function in aging mice. 
To date, Argenta has identified 35 such candidates.

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