Bringing patients closer to improve outcomes in IPF

Bringing patients closer to improve outcomes in a rare and progressive disease

by Dr. Walid Abi-Saab, Chief Medical Officer at Galapagos

Following the science

I had only been working with Galapagos for less than a year, when we were faced with an enormous opportunity, and with it an enormous risk. It turned out a molecule we had identified as potentially having a role in inflammation was a very strong candidate for a rare disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

What is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, or IPF? The most important things to know about IPF right now are that IPF patients are not likely to survive beyond 2-5 years of diagnosis without treatment. The disease has no medical cure and while current anti-fibrotic treatments improve the quality of life and slow progression, it is a disease that continues to have high unmet needs. 

As a company, we are driven by the science and we have always followed where that takes us. We didn’t shy away from embracing risks to dig deep into the mechanisms of this extremely underserved disease. We spoke to experts, partnered with patients and have designed one of the largest patient trials in IPF that we believe can take us in the right direction. We recently formed a unique collaboration with Gilead, bringing together our respective strengths in drug discovery, development and commercial expertise, to progress innovation and get our medicines to patients as quickly as possible.

We are continuing to push boundaries to understand IPF from a genetic and biomarkers perspective and are conducting research to understand what patients want. Collecting important data to help ask the questions that will improve patient outcomes.

In partnership with patients

Our work is inspired by patients – they give our work purpose every day and remind us of why it is we do what we do. For me, it’s beyond patient-centricity – it’s about entering an holistic partnership with patients and going with them on a journey from the early stages of research to new innovations being made available to them. We understand that the physical, emotional, and social consequences of IPF, as well as what patients want and expect from treatment, are all critical when developing new medicines.

IPF affects up to 110,000 Europeans (1) and has a survival rate of 2-5 years, worse than many cancers. Our goals are to stop the progression of the disease and enable people affected by IPF to live their lives not worrying about their condition. This is indeed an ambitious goal, but at Galapagos, we like to think big – if the science allows us, we will do it and if it doesn’t, we will work to do as much as we can to get to where we need to go.

To better understand the path to IPF diagnosis, how it is treated and the challenges it brings we partnered with the European Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and Related Disorders Federation (EU-IPFF) to conduct a survey amongst 273 IPF patients across Europe. The ‘Improving pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis and care in Europe’ session at this year’s European Respiratory Society (ERS) will present insights from this survey and will help deepen our understanding about the condition so we can focus our efforts on the health outcomes that truly matter to people with IPF, while amplifying their voice with healthcare professionals in order to foster more personal and impactful care.

Making a difference from a unique perspective

As a small biotech, I believe Galapagos is unique. We are grounded in science and use that as a basis to develop medicines that promise to improve the lives of our patients. I’m very proud to be part of a team that is extremely committed to changing the course of this devastating condition. There is a real sense of purpose at Galapagos, where each individual has a deep sense of ownership to make a big difference. This ethos at Galapagos and the importance we collectively place on being close to patients and their physicians, really inspires me. It re-emphasizes the reason why I chose to be in the field of medicine and why I do what I do at Galapagos. By bringing patients closer to us and listening to them, we can help people living with IPF overcome daily limitations to lead longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.

  1. Roland M. du Bois. An earlier and more confident diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. European Respiratory Review. Jun 2012, 21 (124) 141-146.