Galapagos JAK1 Inhibitor Is One To Contend With

Galapagos’ JAK1 Inhibitor Is One To Contend With

Just today, Galapagos announced a major partnership with Abbott to develop its JAK1 specific inhibitor for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. This Belgium based biotech snagged a lucrative deal with $150 million in upfront payments. Upon the completion of Phase II studies, Abbott has the option to license the program for a one-time payment of $200 million, taking over all further development. In addition, Galapagos is entitled to $1 billion in additional milestones, receiving tiered double-digit royalties on net sales.

The deal has been in the works since the small biotech demonstrated compelling early data in November last year. In a small four-week study of 36 patients, the selective JAK1 inhibitor, GLPG0634 was shown to have efficacy on par with other novel oral compounds, but with a better safety profile. The results validated selective JAK1 inhibition as a valid target. Hitting this kinase alone while sparing JAK2 and JAK3 appears to have retained high activity with no signs of anemia or increased lipid levels- hallmarks of Pfizer and Incyte’s JAK inhibitors. The company quickly decided that it needed a partner to move its compound quickly through the clinic.

There is probably no better partner for Galapagos than Abbott, maker of Humira, the world’s best selling RA treatment. At the same time, it is an acknowledgement by the large pharma that change is afoot. Injectable biologics such as Humira have been hugely successful, for patients and especially for drug makers, but small molecule drugs are closing in, with Pfizer’s tofacitinib in the lead; indeed, it is up for approval in the U.S. this August and Europe at the end of year.

If uptake of the new oral therapies are strong, they will eat significantly into the market share of biologic treatments. Abbott bid its time as the JAK inhibitors sorted themselves out; there’s no rush to be first- the market is huge. The wait appears to have paid off. With a relatively small $150 million “option” on GLPG0634, it can sit back and wait for more data before fully committing on this promising project.

Galapagos now has more than enough money to fund the Phase II trials, for one thing, it is already a profitable operation. Phase II data will be presented to Abbott in 2014, so it will be a wait.

The company has a rich history, founded in 1999 as a joint venture between Crucell and Tibotec, two highly innovative companies. Keep an eye on this biotech.

 

Disclosure: Long GLPYY.PK, INCY

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