Galapagos dials up IPO target as AbbVie asks for $30M stake

Galapagos (AMS:GLPG) has increased the amount it hopes to raise in its upcoming Nasdaq IPO to $230 million (€203 million) after AbbVie ($ABBV) placed a provisional order for a $30 million stake. The order adds a subplot to the ongoing speculation about whether AbbVie will take up its $200 million option to buy into Galapagos' rheumatoid arthritis program or acquire the company outright.

Galapagos CEO Onno van de Stolpe

Mechelen, Belgium-based Galapagos was targeting a haul of $150 million when it filed the papers for a Nasdaq IPO last month but since then its standing has been buoyed by positive news. The rheumatoid arthritis drug filgotinib--a JAK1 inhibitor--aced a second Phase IIb trial, raising expectations that AbbVie will exercise its $200 million option to buy into the program after it gets a look at the 24-week data. Galapagos' share price in Europe hit new highs in the wake of the data, putting it in a position to dial up expectations for its Nasdaq listing.

AbbVie sees value in Galapagos at the newly inflated price and has expressed an interest in buying $30 million worth of shares when the Belgian biotech goes public. The big question is whether the interest in acquiring a stake in Galapagos will evolve into a takeover bid. Speculation has swirled around Galapagos since it posted the filgotinib data. AbbVie is near the top of a short list of potential suitors, which also includes Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ). J&J already holds a 7.6% stake in Galapagos and--like AbbVie--is nearing the loss of patent protection on rheumatoid arthritis drug.

Filgotinib and its potential to become a once-daily rheumatoid arthritis treatment without concomitant methotrexate are the focus of the buyout rumors but Galapagos has other notable assets in its pipeline. If the IPO goes as planned, Galapagos will plough $80 million into clinical development of its cystic fibrosis combination therapy, a sum it thinks will see it through to the end of Phase II. A further $65 million is earmarked for a Phase II trial of inflammatory bowel disease program GLPG1205.

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