Sticking together against Huntington’s

BioFocus and CHDI enter new five-year collaboration for Huntington’s disease therapeutics

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SAFFRON WALDEN, England—In what is its largest externalcollaboration to date, BioFocus has announced that it will continue for anotherfive years its collaboration agreement with CHDI Foundation Inc., a non-profitvirtual biotech pursuing therapies for Huntington's disease. BioFocus willperform the research and is eligible to receive $41 million in research feesduring this period.
BioFocus will apply its full range of integrated drugdiscovery services for this program, and integrated biology and chemistrycapabilities will be supported by BioFocus' expertise in complex primaryneuronal assay development, high-content screening, fragment-based screening,computational chemistry, ADME/PK and protein crystallography, bothorganizations note. 
The two organizations originally came together in 2005,though not precisely under the names BioFocus and CHDI. At the time, the dealwas between Galapagos NV, the parent company of BioFocus—which is a servicedivision of Galapagos—and the High Q Foundation Inc.
"The original collaboration was to find novel targets inHuntington's disease, based on our ability to functionally screen and validatenovel drug targets in human primary cells," notes Elizabeth Goodwin, directorof investor relations for Galapagos.
In May 2008, CHDI announced that it had taken over primaryresponsibility for the types of Huntington's disease research projectspreviously funded by High Q. Also, in the midst of the original five-yearagreement, in October 2008, CHDI and Galapagos announced new collaborationagreements focused on developing novel assays for drug discovery and evaluatingknown compounds as potentially new therapeutic approaches for Huntington'sdisease, with a total value to Galapagos of $1 million over 18 months.
"Having collaborated with CHDI since 2005 in therapeutictarget discovery, we are eager to continue working together to develop noveltherapies for Huntington's disease and meet this urgent medical need," saysOnno van de Stolpe, CEO of Galapagos. "We are confident that the next fiveyears of this long-standing relationship with CHDI will be as productive as thefirst five."
Simon Noble, director of scientific communications for CHDI,notes that no particular event, breakthrough or other extraordinary factor isresponsible for the five-year extension—simply the fact that among CHDI's variousstrategic partners, BioFocus has proven to be a reliable and skilledcollaborator. "There is still work to do," he says, "and we find ourselves inneed of more FTEs [full-time equivalent workers], and these are the people whocan help us get that done."
"BioFocus has delivered expert technologies and experiencedstaff to therapeutic target and drug discovery research in the fight againstHuntington's disease," said Ignacio Munoz-Sanjuan, vice-president of biology atCHDI, in the news release about the new deal. "This has encouraged us to extendand expand the collaboration, with the ultimate goal of findingdisease-modifying treatments for Huntington's."
As Noble notes, CHDI relies heavily on its partnerships, asit is a virtual company. It has about 30 Ph.D. and M.D. science directorsguiding various research, but it is the CROs and other strategic partners whooften get the bulk of the work accomplished. 
"We have a clinical group that we are currently expandingand we hope to go into clinical trials in the not-too-distant future with someof our compounds, so making sure we have the right partners in place iscritical," he points out.
Despite not having a wealth of manpower itself, Galapagos'Goodwin emphasizes that this is a collaborative partnership, with skills beingbrought not just by BioFocus but also by CHDI.
"CHDI is a virtual biotech exclusively dedicated to rapidly discoveringand developing therapies that slow the progression of Huntington's disease,"Goodwin notes. "They bring disease knowledge, access to patients, and a networkof Huntington's disease experts into the collaboration."

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