Galapagos halts lupus CAR-T program, confirms 100 layoffs so far this year

Galapagos has never been afraid of reworking its pipeline or workforce to face the future. 2022 saw the Belgian biotech pivot to CAR-T therapies and then drop its kidney disease and fibrosis programs—the latter move coinciding with laying off 200 employees.

While last year was less disruptive for Galapagos, it appears the pace of change has ramped back up in 2024. In its full-year earnings report, the company revealed that the 100 layoffs hinted at back in October as a way to “streamline” operations have now taken place.

These roles were culled from “across the Galapagos organization” since the start of the year and were aimed at aligning with “Galapagos’ renewed focus on innovation,” the company said.

Galapagos also used the earnings report to disclose that it has decided to halt work on its CD19 CAR-T candidate aimed at refractory systemic lupus erythematosus. The release was light on details for the move, with Galapagos only ascribing the pipeline change to “strategic reasons.”

Back in November, Galapagos reported that “further progress” had been made in preparing to launch a phase 1b study of the CAR-T therapy, dubbed GLPG5101, in patients with refractory systemic lupus erythematosus. But there have been no updates since.

The biotech has also been testing GLPG5101 in patients with relapsed/refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The company shared early data from phase 1 and 2 trials of the CAR-T therapy in this indication at the American Society of Hematology general meeting in December, claiming the “encouraging safety profile” and initial efficacy data showed “the potential of our CAR-T pipeline beyond these initial indications.”

GLPG5101 isn’t the only candidate Galapagos was testing in systemic lupus erythematosus, however. The company has a selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor called GLPG3667 in a phase 2 trial for the autoimmune condition.

Elsewhere, the company has expanded its remit this year, kicking off 2024 with a $27 million upfront deal to use BridGene Biosciences’ chemoproteomics platform to discover new small molecules for cancer. When announcing in October that the once-promising JAK inhibitor Jyseleca would be transferred to Italy’s Alfasigma, Galapagos suggested that on top of the roughly 400 employees that would move with the drug, another 100 positions would be trimmed at some point.

The company still has plenty of money at hand. Galapagos entered the new year with 3.7 billion euros ($4 billion), which Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer Thad Huston described in yesterday’s earnings release as “a strong financial position.”

“We will continue to execute on business development opportunities and invest in our pipeline to drive value for all our stakeholders,” Huston added.