Part I: Galapagos
Onno van de Stolpe has led biotechnology company Galapagos (Belgium) since it was founded as a joint venture between Crucell and Tibotec in 1999. Launching amidst the boom in genomics research, the company has pursued a successful expansion policy, acquiring drug discovery company BioFocus DPI in 2005. Here, Onno talks to Pharma Exec Europe about the secret of Galapagos's success, and why he is confident the company can ride out the economic downturn with no adverse effects.
PEE: How has Galapagos has grown in the last 10 years, and is this rate of growth likely to continue?
In 2004, we put in place an outsourced chemistry programme with BioFocus in the UK. After we went public in 2005, we were able to acquire BioFocus, and that was a major step for the company; we were then able to integrated biology with chemistry and formulate molecules against targets that we had discovered.
I think growth always has to be part of your business plan; we plan to continue to grow, but maybe not as aggressively as 2005–2006 when we really extended the capability and critical mass of the company. At the moment we have about 200 people working on our internal and alliance programmes, and this continues to grow; we have 300 people in the service division.
We also later this year to select a therapeutic area where we're going to take products all the way to the patient; until now we have licensed our programmes at various stages of product development.
Would you say your company is recession-proof?
There was some talk of you selling BioFocus DPI late last year.
How do countries across Europe differ in their support for companies like Galapagos?
Government support is very important for us, especially for our internal programmes; if you bring a product into the clinic, the costs are so tremendously high it's extremely difficult for any company to finance it, especially a biotech company that has limited cash resources.
You've been leading Galapagos for 10 years now. How do you stay motivated?
By continually moving into new territories, the job continues to be extremely exciting job. To still be able to lead the company after 10 years is fantastic. I'm looking forward to the next 10!
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