France's Servier has linked up with Galapagos for an oncology partnership that could be worth over a quarter of a billion euros to the Belgian group.

The firms have entered into a multi-year strategic alliance whereby Galapagos will be responsible for the discovery and development of new cancer candidate drugs. Servier will have an exclusive option to license each small molecule programme after the completion of pre- clinical studies.

Cashwise, Galapagos will get research access fees of 2 million euros and is also eligible to receive various other milestone payments that could reach 260 million euos, plus royalties. The Mechelen-based group also retains exclusive rights for clinical development, registration and commercialisation in the USA.

The companies teamed up in July 2010 to develop new therapies in osteoarthritis where Galapagos also held on to US rights. Emmanuel Canet, Servier's head of R&D, said that "based on the progress made already in our osteoarthritis collaboration…we are convinced of Galapagos' ability to deliver new cancer drugs based on novel targets".

Vernalis oncology pact progressing well

Meantime, Servier said it has achieved a research milestone in their oncology drug discovery collaboration with Vernalis initiated in May 2007, triggering a 500,000 euro payment to the UK firm.

The project, which is currently focused on developing two promising oncology targets involved in protein-protein interactions, has now been extended to a third oncology target. Dr Canet said "we are very satisfied with this collaboration showing the added value of integrated structural biology and reaching an important milestone on a truly innovative oncology target".