PI Galapagos: Richard Janssen

About Galapagos

Galapagos is a mid-sized biotechnology company specialized in the discovery and development of small molecule and antibody therapies with novel modes-of-action. The Company is progressing selective JAK1 inhibitor GLPG0634 in rheumatoid arthritis, as well as one of the largest pipelines in biotech, with four programs in development and over 50 discovery programs. The Galapagos Group has about 800 employees and operates facilities in six countries, with global headquarters in Mechelen, Belgium. Galapagos guides for 2012 revenues of €150 million, and operational and net profitability for a third year.

Galapagos has developed a target discovery platform that provides novel starting points for drug and antibody therapies, thereby addressing the industry's need for innovative, disease-modifying medicines. Galapagos has discovered drug targets (starting points for the development of novel drugs) using cells from patients for more than fifteen diseases. These targets form the basis of drug discovery programs aimed at identifying small molecules or antibodies that alter the activity of these proteins, thereby potentially changing the course of the disease. By studying the disease process and key points of intervention, it is the Company's goal to develop new drugs that stop the disease rather than just treat the symptoms.

About target discovery

Nearly all diseases and disorders are caused by a disruption in the normal function of certain proteins. Therefore, the main goal of pharmaceutical companies is to design drugs that alter the activity of these proteins so that normal function returns and the cause of the disease is minimized or eliminated. One of the main obstacles in discovering new drugs is knowing exactly which of the body's thousands of proteins play a key role in a particular disease. Once these proteins are discovered, they become targets for drug design. Finding these targets is one of the critical steps in the drug discovery process.

In order to study proteins in human cells, Galapagos takes advantage of the distinctive properties of a safe variant of adenoviruses. With these viruses Galapagos can deliver pieces of DNA into human cells in the laboratory, causing the cells to either make more of a certain protein or to block the production of new protein. The latter effect is based on the nobel-prize winning RNA interference technology.

Galapagos' uniqueness lies in using human cells, which gives a more realistic idea of the effect that protein might have on the disease in the human body than studying proteins in engineered cells (cell lines) and animal cells, as other companies do. Using these human cells, Galapagos can mimic disease processes in the laboratory. By altering the protein levels in the cells as described above, Galapagos is able to identify the proteins that play a role in the disease and such proteins can then serve as a target in the drug discovery process.

Relationship with DCTI

Galapagos BV in Leiden will collaborate closely with LUMC and other partners to set up several high throughput screening assays using human primary beta cells. In one approach, the ability of the beta cells to produce insulin in response to glucose will be studied. In another approach, the ability of the beta cells to survive in an inflammatory environment will be evaluated. Galapagos will employ these assays in combination with its target and drug discovery platforms to identify genes and drugs that enhance insulin secretion and cell survival. The know-how around genes and the compounds identified in this program can then be used to increase the success of beta cell transplantation and enhance beta cell function.