Galapagos Receives a Rousing Welcome on Its First Day of Trading

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wall Street welcomed Galapagos (GLPYY) like a rare species -- with great appreciation. 

On Thursday, the company's first day of trading on the Nasdaq, shares of the Belgian biotech firm climbed 20.10% -- and reached $50.50 by the market's close.

Onnon van de Stolpe, the company's founder and CEO, showed his pleasure in an interview with TheStreet, saying he was "very happy to be on the Nasdaq." The company's stock has already been trading on Brussels and Amsterdam exchanges. 

Van de Stolpe, a biotech industry veteran, founded Galapagos in 1999 while a managing director of genomics for Introgene, now Crucell, based in Leiden in the Netherlands. Galapagos started as a joint venture between Crucell and the pharmaceutical research company Tibotec, now a unit of Johnson and Johnson (JNJ).

Galapagos is currently in the final phase of testing of a rheumatoid arthritis drug, filgotinib, which van de Stolpe claimed is easy to administer and needs less time to show results (just a week) than other treatments with "a long onset of action," say two months, that are administered by injection or IV. "Ours ... can be taken as a pill in the morning, once a day. For patients' comfort, it's much better." 

Van de Stolpe said that filgotinib relies on an organic compound with a small molecular weight.

Johnson & Johnson and Abbvie (ABBV) are investors in Galapagos' initiative. "They have an option on that program that they can acquire [the product] up to September of this year," van de Stolpe said. "Then they can further develop it in the latest chemical phase and market it globally." Galapagos would receive royalties based on certain milestones. 

AbbVie is striving to replace its blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis therapy, Humira, whose patent is about to expire. "For AbbVie, they need to have a second-generation rheumatoid arthritis drug," van de Stolpe said. 

Van de Stolpe expressed  eagerness for his company to gain exposure from investors in the United States, where he said many are sophisticated in their approach to biotech: "Here you have very large biotech funds that have all the knowledge to review the programs of the companies, and we wanted to get more access to these. A Nasdaq listing is a very good way to do that."

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