Galapagos plans to cut 100 jobs after striking deal to transfer Jyseleca, 400 staffers to Alfasigma

Galapagos has found a buyer for its once-promising JAK inhibitor Jyseleca (filgotinib), signing a letter of intent to transfer the drug and related operations to Alfasigma of Italy.

Under the deal, Galapagos will transfer its Jyseleca marketing authorizations in Europe and the U.K. along with roughly 400 employees who are involved in the development, marketing and commercial activities surrounding the drug.

The Belgian company is set to receive 50 million euros ($53 million) upfront plus potential milestone payments of 120 million euros ($127 million) and royalties on sales in Europe. By June 2025, Galapagos also will pay up to 40 million euros ($43 million) to fund continued development of Jyseleca.

The move allows Galapagos to further “streamline” its operations, the company said. Aside from transferring the Jyseleca-focused employees, Galapagos plans to trim another 100 positions.

Altogether, Galapagos aims to save between 150 million euros and 200 million euros annually.

“The planned transaction is expected to free-up significant resources across the organization, enabling us to invest more in our R&D growth areas, business development and M&A,” Paul Stoffels, M.D., chairman and CEO of Galapagos, said in a statement.

It is the second major move in five weeks for Alfasigma. Last month, the company took over struggling Intercept Pharmaceuticals and its single approved drug Ocaliva, paying $800 million.

The Galapagos deal enhances the company’s “international transformation” and growth plans, Alfasigma CEO Francesco Balestrieri said in a statement.

It’s been a long fall for Jyseleca, which was once called a “pipeline in a product” by former Galapagos CEO Onno van de Stolpe for its perceived ability to treat a variety of inflammatory disorders. The drug was the centerpiece of a $5 billion partnership between Galapagos and Gilead Sciences, which began to go sour in 2020 when the FDA rejected filgotinib to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

In August of this year, after an unsuccessful phase 3 trial evaluating Jyseleca in Crohn’s disease patients, Galapagos decided not to submit an application in Europe in the indication and pulled an application in ulcerative colitis in Switzerland.

At the time, the company slashed its 2023 sales projection for Jyseleca by $44 million, and Chief Financial Officer Thad Huston said it was “evaluating strategic options" for the medicine.

The good news for Galapagos lies in its balance sheet. In August, the company said it had 3.9 billion euros ($4.3 billion) stashed away for potential business development.

Formerly one of the hottest firms in the biopharma industry, Galapagos’ share price has plummeted from a high of $268 in 2020 to $30.10 on Monday.