Galapagos finally takes M&A plunge, spending $251M for 2 biotechs in CAR-T push

Galapagos CEO Paul Stoffels, M.D., has finally taken the plunge on M&A. The newly minted chief executive has signed not one but two deals in an attempt to right the ship, bringing two small biotechs aboard for a combined 239 million euros ($251.4 million).

The first fish caught in the net of the 23-year-old company is CellPoint, which will provide Galapagos with a decentralized point-of-care manufacturing model to develop CAR-T cell therapies in seven days. This cuts down the logistics of creating CAR-Ts from the usual monthlong process.

CellPoint’s platform was developed in collaboration with Lonza to address the current limitations of existing CAR-T treatments. The tech is currently being used in two phase 1/2a clinical trials for a CAR-T therapy in non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Galapagos said “clinical validation” of the platform is expected with those trial readouts in the first half of 2023.

Galapagos will pay 125 million euros ($131.5 million) upfront for the company, plus another 100 million euros ($105.2 million) down the line after the achievement of certain milestones.

For a company desperately in need of new therapeutics, after the crumbling of its clinical program, the purchase of a CAR-T trial platform seems like an odd fit. But that’s where the second deal comes into play. AboundBio will be acquired for $14 million for its fully human antibody-based library and biological drug discovery and engineering capabilities. Galapagos plans to take three next-generation CAR-T candidates from AboundBio’s library and run them through the clinic using CellPoint’s tech over the next three years.

Stoffels, who took the wheel from Onno van de Stolpe in April, told Fierce Biotech that these CAR-Ts would initially be focused on hematological cancers, but the company also has ambitions in the solid tumor space.

It was a meeting with CellPoint that made Stoffels realize there is a way to decentralize and simplify the CAR-T process, the Galapagos CEO said in an interview. “We have an end-to-end oncology capability from discovery to upscaling and production, and being able to bring it to the patient—that was what inspired me to do it.”

Conducting the CAR-T process in cancer centers removes the need to freeze cells for transportation between the patient and the lab, the CEO added.

In his statement issued after market close Tuesday, Stoffels indicated that these two small deals are just the first catches. The two transactions had the blessing of partner Gilead Sciences, which holds two board seats at Galapagos including CEO Daniel O'Day.

“This is a first key step in our strategic transformation to accelerate and diversify our pipeline with the aim to create short- and long-term value through focused external growth,” he said in a statement. “We continue to explore additional business development opportunities to further leverage our internal capabilities and renew our portfolio, and we expect to communicate a detailed update on our corporate strategy and portfolio later this year.”