AbbVie is going for it in cystic fibrosis. But why are they buying the weak Galapagos portfolio in a $245M deal?

AbbVie took a hard look at some weak data for Galapagos’ $GLPG double and triple for cystic fibrosis — and decided to buy the lot.

We already knew that the Phase II study of the C2 corrector GLPG2737 combined with Orkambi didn’t work all that well. Now new data from Galapagos help prove that adding it to their GLPG2451 and GLPG2222 drugs did nothing at all to improve results.

The double alone produced “a mean increase in ppFEV1 of approximately 3%.” The triple did no better.

That is not what you would call standout data.

Onno van de Stolpe

Nevertheless, their partners at AbbVie — which some analysts had expected to walk away from the whole thing — instead agreed to pay Galapagos $45 million in cash and up to $200 million in milestones as it brings the portfolio in house. AbbVie now plans to put its R&D organization to work on a combination approach, including discovery work to come up with better candidates than what they start with in the clinic.

“We believe that AbbVie is well-equipped to further develop this CF portfolio and to come up with a competitive triple combination product for CF patients,” said Onno van de Stolpe, CEO of Galapagos.

Galapagos is keeping rights to GLPG-2737 in non-CF indications.

The feeble initial results leave Vertex in the driver’s seat, where it’s been for several years now as they build their own triple to expand their reach in this patient population. The only challenger that has emerged out of the pack so far has been Proteostasis $PTI, which has some good — though very early-stage data — to provide the day-traders something to chat about.

Some of the analysts who follow this field were left scratching their heads over AbbVie’s move. The pharma company has a rep for looking to vault into the lead with best-in-class candidates, ruthlessly leaving behind drugs and partnerships which don’t measure up.

Jefferies’ Michael Yee was one of the puzzled players trying to figure out AbbVie’s motive.

(W)e think the first data out today on triple is disappointing, and it remains to be seen if ABBV is just taking it over to evaluate the options and doesn’t seriously plan to do much or will actually move other future triples into Phase I/II. Currently the competitor does not appear to have any triples that are of relevance at this time.

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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
CytomX Therapeutics San Francisco, CA
Marketing Associate - Demand Generation
Catalytic Data Science Charleston, SC
Associate Principal, Life Sciences Partnerships
Flatiron Health New York City or San Francisco

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