GlaxoSmithKline and Galapagos have linked arms to develop new therapies designed to combat osteoarthritis in a deal worth almost 140 million euros to the Dutch firm.

Galapagos will identify targets, screen compounds and develop any leads through to proof of concept Phase IIa: GSK then has the option to take any compounds into its pipeline and progress through to commercialisation.

The focus is the identification of genes that stimulate repair processes within the bone (chondrogenesis) and inhibit the breakdown of affected joints. Under the terms of the deal, Galapagos will receive a 4 million euro upfront payment, plus up to 130 million euros in milestone fees for two marketable products and double-digit royalties on sales. The UK giant has also agreed to take a 3 million-euro stake in Galapagos on completion of an undisclosed milestone.

Galapagos’ OA programme – which focuses on chondrocytes, the main cell types in cartilage – has already identified 11 novel targets that have been validated in cell models. It hopes that modulation of these targets will result in stable cartilage and prevent further damage to the tissue in OA, the most common form of arthritis, which is characterised by joint destruction and loss of articular cartilage.