Galapagos and Merck end alliances

All rights to drugs covered in deals return to Galapagos

Belgian biotechnology firm Galapagos has ended its worldwide alliances with Merck & Co covering cardiovascular, inflammatory and metabolic diseases.

‘Changes in our early discovery strategy have required us to make some challenging decisions,’ said Kathleen Metters, senior vice-president, external discovery and preclinical sciences, at Merck.

The rights to all drugs covered in the deals have been returned to Galapagos, and Merck will make a payment of €12m (US$16.3m) to Galapagos for work completed in 2010. Overall, Galapagos will have received a total of €20.9m in upfront and milestone payments from the alliances.

‘In the alliances with Merck, we have discovered promising targets and developed target discovery assays for diseases with considerable unmet medical needs,’ said Onno van de Stolpe, chief executive of Galapagos.

‘Galapagos now owns these valuable assets which can form the basis for future alliances,’ he said. ‘The work delivered to Merck last year also made a strong contribution to Galapagos' financial results in 2010.’

In a separate announcement, Galapagos said it has been awarded a €2.7m grant from the Flemish agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) to progress its antiviral drug discovery research programmes.

The two-year IWT-funded project focuses on progressing novel mode-of-action small molecules that have shown antiviral activity in laboratory models. The aim is to deliver a first preclinical candidate within 12 months.

Galapagos will collaborate on this project with the research group of Professor Johan Neyts at the Rega Institute for Medical Research at the KU Leuven, which has expertise in developing novel strategies to treat viral infections.

The research will advance compounds against human rhinovirus (HRV), the virus that causes the common cold, and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

‘Galapagos is once again breaking new ground with these novel antiviral compounds that target host proteins,’ said Graham Dixon, senior vice president, Drug Discovery for Galapagos.

‘This grant provides funding for us further to understand the mechanism by which these orally available, small molecules play a role in inhibiting viral infection.’

Companies