Galapagos will work in collaboration with KU Leuven to identify preclinical candidates by 2013.

Belgian biotech firm Galapagos has been awarded a €3.7 million grant from the Flemish agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) to fund preclinical development of a disease-modifying drug candidate against cystic fibrosis (CF).

The project, known as the “Disease-Modifying Drug Discovery in Cystic Fibrosis” program, will involve a collaboration between Galapagos and the Center for Human Genetics at the KU Leuven. It will focus on novel drug targets identified by Galapagos through a previous alliance with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF).

The CFF collaboration, initiated in 2005, resulted in the identification of 19 novel disease-modifying targets that Galapagos says have been validated in a standard preclinical model of cystic fibrosis. The firm has exclusive rights to the targets, and has already started developing a number of small molecule drugs. It will also retain IP and commercial rights to any compounds reaching the market, and says it hopes to have nominated a preclinical candidate by 2013.

Galapagos announced the decision to initiate drug discovery and development programs for orphan diseases back in March. Having chosen cystic fibrosis as the first disease in this new initiative, the firm will focus on disease-modifying drugs that have real efficacy benefits over existing therapies.

“Galapagos is breaking new ground in CF with its novel targets,” claims Graham Dixon, svp of drug discovery at the firm. “The collaboration with the Center for Human Genetics helps us to prioritize the novel targets which could make the most difference to CF patients. This grant increases the chances of delivering a preclinical candidate by our target date of 2013.”

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