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Gilead strikes $5.1bn deal to bolster ties with Galapagos

Big boost for Belgian biotech, without a buy-out

Gilead

Gilead Sciences has agreed a $5.1bn deal to increase its stake in Galapagos, its partner for experimental JAK1 inhibitor filgotinib for rheumatoid arthritis.

The pipeline-building deal – the largest under new Gilead chief executive Daniel O’Day who took the helm in March – includes a massive $3.95bn upfront, a $1.1bn equity investment to take its stake in the Belgian biotech to 22%, as well as $1.1bn in opt-in payments for two late-stage drug candidates.

The 10-year R&D alliance could swell Gilead’s pipeline by up to six compounds in the clinic and 20 preclinical programmes, at a time when the biotech is still suffering from a dramatic decline in hepatitis C sales, increased pressure in its HIV franchise, and with a lot of work still to be done on its push to diversify into cancer and liver diseases.

CAR-T therapy for cancer Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) – acquired as part of its $12bn takeover of Kite – has been slow to build sales, bringing in $264m last year. Meanwhile, Gilead has had a couple of failed trials with its lead non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) therapy selonsertib.

Reinvigorating Gilead’s pipeline is viewed as the number one priority for O’Day as revenues come under pressure. With the new deal, Gilead’s pipeline additions include GLPG1690, an oral, once-daily autotaxin inhibitor in phase 3 for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and GLPG1972, an ADAMTS-5 blocker in phase 2b for osteoarthritis in the US. Servier has rights to the latter drug outside the US market.

Gilead also receives option rights on all of Galapagos' other current and future clinical programmes outside of Europe.

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Daniel O'Day

“We chose to partner with Galapagos because of its pioneering target and drug discovery platform, proven scientific capabilities and outstanding team,” said O’Day.

Meanwhile, for Galapagos, the partnership massively increases its financial muscle as it tries to chase down a top 10 biotech spot, and accelerates its plans to become a commercial-stage company with broader commercialisation rights in Europe for filgotinib, due to be filed for approval this year setting up a 2020 launch.

Filgotinib is however up against some tough competition in the market, from Pfizer’s blockbuster Xeljanz (tofacitinib) – already approved for RA, psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis – as well as AbbVie’s well-regarded JAK1 inhibitor upadacitinib, which was filed for RA in the US in February. Nevertheless analysts have predicted blockbuster sales for filgotinib if approved.

Galapagos will also be able to lean on Gilead’s commercial acumen, freeing it up to invest more of its resources on R&D, said the biotech’s CEO Onno van de Stolpe in a Bloomberg interview. That could mean a doubling if its R&D headcount to 1,000, he added, but importantly the deal will also retain Galapagos’ independence and nimbleness.

Article by
Phil Taylor

14th July 2019

From: Sales

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