MECHELEN, Belgium, Feb. 11, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Galapagos NV (Euronext: GLPG) announces that the Flemish Agency for Innovation through Science and Technology (IWT) has awarded a €1.6 million grant to support the development of new antiviral therapies against hepatitis B, in a collaboration project with Prof. Johan Neyts of the Rega Institute of the University of Leuven and Prof. Stephan Urban of the University Hospital in Heidelberg.
The goal of the project is to identify novel compounds and targets with the potential to cure chronic hepatitis B infection, allowing patients to come off current life-long therapy. Research will focus on compounds against viral protein targets and on inhibitors of host cell proteins. Galapagos will use its proprietary target and drug discovery platform to identify novel modes of action and screen for candidate drugs. The Rega and Heidelberg sites will contribute to the development of assays, perform analysis of the mechanism of action of drug candidates, and bring in expertise of the virus and its life cycle to accelerate the progression of drug development.
"Chronic hepatitis B is a disease area with significant unmet medical need, and where Galapagos and its academic partners can bring unique expertise to bear on finding new therapies," said Dr Piet Wigerinck, Chief Scientific Officer of Galapagos.
"It would be an enormous advance if patients could be cured of their chronic HBV infection" said Prof. Johan Neyts, virologist at the University of Leuven.
About chronic hepatitis B
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a member of the Hepadnavirus family of small DNA viruses, which are adapted to infect specifically the livers of different species. In adults HBV infections are typically acute and self-resolving; however in 5-10% of cases they can become chronic. In children and infants this rate becomes significantly higher (up to 90%). In chronic infection, the virus establishes itself in the liver of the host and over time leads to progressively more severe pathology, including eventually cirrhosis, and, in a proportion of cases, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The proven link between HBV and HCC makes the virus one of the most significant known carcinogens.
The disease is a significant burden to world health, with approximately 350 million chronic sufferers worldwide, and around 650,000 deaths per year attributed to the effects of chronic HBV infection such as HCC. Treatments currently employed for HBV include prophylactics such as vaccines to prevent infection or therapeutics to treat established chronic infection. However, so far no therapeutic vaccines have been developed, and drugs such as nucleosides which are highly effective at reducing viral load in patients do not result in functional cures in the majority of cases, even after years of therapy. Interferon therapy can give rise to functional cure in a small proportion of patients, however, the treatment is poorly tolerated. Because of these issues new treatments are required, and it is likely that combination approaches like those taken with the hepatitis C virus will be key to establish functional cures in HBV.
The agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (abbreviated as IWT) is the government agency founded in 1991 by the Flemish Government to support technological innovation projects in Flanders. Each year IWT distributes about €300 million in subsidies for innovation projects to companies, organizations, research and educational institutions in Flanders. In addition to financial support, IWT also assists companies by, for instance helping them find the right information or the right partners at home or abroad, providing assistance with the preparation of projects for European programmes and with technology transfer throughout Europe. IWT also has an important coordination mandate aimed at promoting close cooperation among all the actors involved in technological innovation in Flanders. For more information, please visit http://www.iwt.be or call +32 2 432 42 00.
Galapagos (Euronext: GLPG; OTC: GLPYY) is a clinical-stage biotechnology company specialized in the discovery and development of small molecule medicines with novel modes of action, with a pipeline comprising three Phase 2 programs, two Phase 1 trials, five pre-clinical studies, and 25 discovery small-molecule and antibody programs in cystic fibrosis, inflammation, and other indications. In the field of inflammation, AbbVie and Galapagos signed a collaboration agreement for the development and commercialization of GLPG0634. GLPG0634 is an orally-available, selective inhibitor of JAK1 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and potentially other inflammatory diseases, currently in Phase 2b studies in RA and in Phase 2 in Crohn's disease. GLPG1205, a first-in-class inhibitor of GPR84, is currently being tested in a Phase 2 proof-of-concept trial in ulcerative colitis patients. GLPG1690 is a compound that targets pulmonary diseases and is currently in a Phase 1 trial. AbbVie and Galapagos also signed a collaboration agreement in cystic fibrosis to develop and commercialize molecules that address mutations in the CFTR gene. Potentiator GLPG1837 is currently in a Phase 1 trial, and corrector GLPG2222 is at the pre-clinical candidate stage. The Galapagos Group, including fee-for-service subsidiary Fidelta, has approximately 400 employees, operating from its Mechelen, Belgium headquarters and facilities in The Netherlands, France, and Croatia. Further information at: www.glpg.com
Elizabeth Goodwin, Head of Corporate Communications & IR
Tel: +31 6 2291 6240
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