This summer brought very positive news from the Belgian/Dutch company Galapagos. Phase 2b clinical studies drug confirmed that their oral drug filgotinib is safe and effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The company is now in the process of negotiations with several companies for commercialization of the drug. “These results strenghten our conviction that Galapagos is able to go the whole way from target identification to the development of a safe and effective drug”, says an enthusiastic Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos' CEO and founder. “And if it holds up its promises, it's a blockbuster, with an estimated turnover of many billions per year.”
The phase 2b clinical trial in patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) showed the effects of filgotinib within the first weeks of treatment. Its safety profile also looks very good. Van de Stolpe: “This is really good news for RA patients. Currently the most effective drugs are the so-called biologicals. Compared to them, filgotinib acts faster, is very safe and very effective. And it is an oral drug, so it is easy to administer. Patients need to take only one pill a day.”
It is only normal in our line of work that many candidate drugs don't make it to the market, but it sure gives a boost if one of them looks so successful.
The development of new 'small molecule' drugs like filgotinib is Galapagos' core business. “We started here in Leiden with our assay, based on adenovirus modified cells, to find potential targets. The signalling protein Janus kinase 1, JAK1, proved to be an interesting target for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. So we set out to find molecules that could selectively inhibit JAK1. It is a process of trial and error, and of modification until you meet all the criteria, from efficacy to drug interactions, etceteras.
We are really glad this molecule has made it to the third phase of clinical development. Of course, we can't be absolutely sure of this drug until phase 3 has been completed, but right now, everything looks really positive. That really is a great feeling. It is only normal in our line of work that many candidate drugs don't make it to the market, but it sure gives a boost if one of them looks so successful.”
In the coming years, Galapagos will stay at Leiden Bio Science Park; this autumn the company will move to the new Beagle2 building, together with Batavia Bioscience.
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