Galapagos rolls the dice on a $150M IPO, gambling on rheumatoid arthritis drug

A day after Galapagos (Euronext: GLPG) rolled out promising results for its oral rheumatoid arthritis drug filgotinib on Tuesday, the Belgian biotech confidently rolled out its plan to raise $150 million in an IPO on Nasdaq. And with topline results for a follow-up study expected in a matter of days, Galapagos says it should be poised to jump into Phase III with a $200 million licensing deal from AbbVie ($ABBV) expected before the end of this year.

This is a big year for Galapagos in many ways. In addition to filgotinib, which is looking to replace the injectables that currently dominate the RA market, Galapagos is wrapping a Phase I cystic fibrosis study for GLPG1837, which should allow for a rapid advance into a midstage program. The biotech is also advancing GLPG1205 and GLPG1690 in the clinic.

Filgotinib remains the leading asset in Galapagos' portfolio. As the company notes in its F-1, Pfizer ($PFE) was the first to hit the market with an oral RA drug, Xeljanz, while Eli Lilly ($LLY) is focused on gaining a 2016 approval for baricitinib, Astellas advances ASP015k and its own partner AbbVie works on a rival program for ABT-494.

Galapagos is looking to ride into a hot market for biotech stocks, which Aduro ($ADRO) proved yesterday is still wide open for promising drug developers that can make a strong case to investors. Now in its third year, the IPO boom has been generating billions of dollars in fresh funds for biotechs to use.

In the first Phase IIb trial, filgotinib--aka GLPG0634--registered improvements in ACR20 scores, with up to 80% of the people in various dosing groups seeing a 20% improvement in disease symptoms over 12 weeks of add-on therapy to methotrexate. The primary endpoint was an improvement in ACR20 scores for a daily dose of 200 mg compared to a placebo. A total of 594 patients who had inadequate response to methotrexate were recruited for the study.

In anticipation of the data, Bloomberg managed to heat up a considerable amount of takeover buzz for Galapagos, which shouldn't hurt its IPO price at all. As Bloomberg noted, AbbVie and J&J ($JNJ) are already tied to Galapagos, and each of the Big Pharmas want to protect themselves against the loss of key franchises for rheumatoid arthritis.

AbbVie partnered on filgotinib three years ago with a $1.35 billion pact that included $150 million upfront, the looming $200 million licensing deal and more than $1 billion in milestones. A year later AbbVie came back to do a deal on cystic fibrosis, handing over $45 million in an upfront and agreeing to $350 million in milestones.

- here's the F-1