BioWorld International Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Bringing its first product through to the end of Phase IIa is prompting Belgium's Galapagos to contemplate conducting clinical trials, signaling a possible wider shift in the strategy of the 8-year-old biotech company which is expecting to bring in revenues of nearly €60 million (US$68 million) in 2007.

Its new chief financial officer, Leo Steenbergen, told BioWorld International that the need for clinical trials expertise could induce the company to move beyond its longstanding approach of developing products no further than clinical proof of concept. He suggested that the company's acquisitions quest might now take in companies with the expertise required.

Galapagos has a product on the threshold of Phase IIb - oestradiol glucoside, developed for treatment of menopausal symptoms, and leading an extensive pipeline ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to cachexia, and from osteoarthritis to bone metastasis and osteoporosis.

Taking that product into clinical trials could bring the experience that it believes will be valuable in planning development of its upcoming bone and joint disease candidates. But "we've never designed trials," admitted Andre Hoekema, senior vice president of corporate development. In his view, "The biggest problem is patient accrual . . . and we need to get our feet wet in that area."

The company, with a market capitalization of €190 million, and a cash position of about €50 million, has built itself through acquisitions and organic growth, fueled by a series of share offerings and private placements.

It also has formed a strategic alliance with London-based GlaxoSmithKline to deliver osteoarthritis-modifying candidates, with €137 million earmarked in up-front payments against agreed milestones - of which €7.6 million already has been received since the start of the collaboration in June last year.

It claims competitive strengths in its identification of novel targets using human primary cells, and its extensive compound libraries of synthetic and natural products.

Now, Steenbergen said, it is the time to deploy its flexibility in extending the company into other operations that can play coherently into its strengths.

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