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At Galapagos, Small Molecules Are Way to Go for Brown

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Galapagos Genomics is heading in new directions — under the watch of Robin Brown, who was recently named chief scientific officer of the Belgium-based company.

Brown comes to Galapagos from another small company, Devgen, which looks for validated targets and in vivo active compounds for pharmaceuticals and agrochemical industries. Before that, he spent nine years at Glaxo, where he was the head of the cell and molecular biology department at the Stevenage, UK, research campus.

The move from industry giant to the 80-person Galapagos is quite a change. “In a big company like that, it is hard to make an impact individually,” Brown says. “A smaller company presents more opportunities and you can be involved in more parts of the business.”

He spent part of his career in oncology research. “I still have an oncology interest, but I seem to see much more opportunities in other disease. Oncology is typified by a great deal of interest, but very little success. And it’s a very fragmented market, so it can be very difficult to predict where the next drug is coming from,” Brown says.

Galapagos is currently in the early stages of its drug discovery process and is concentrating on small molecules. “I think there are examples where we would consider biologicals,” says Brown, pointing to rheumatoid arthritis, one area of research at Galapagos, where a biological is one of the best drugs on the market.

“For some considerable time, the market will remain very favorably disposed to small molecules, with only limited opportunities for biologicals,” Brown predicts.

— Amanda Urban