From 1 January 2022, Galapagos NV will own full commercialization responsibilities across Europe for its first medicine for the treatment of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ulcerative colitis (UC), as the marketing authorization holder for Europe. In anticipation of this milestone achievement Galapagos has continued to expand its European footprint, which already includes commercial operations in fourteen countries, including UK, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, BeNeLux, Ireland, Nordics region and Alpine region. Now with the appointment of a partner, Sobi, the distribution and commercialization of its medicine can take place across the rest of Europe.
Through this new partnership, Galapagos will be able to make its medicine accessible to more healthcare professionals and their patients across Europe. This opportunity to bring its medicine to market is a significant milestone for Galapagos in becoming an integrated Biotech company with a comprehensive European footprint.
We caught up with Marcel De Jong, Country Head, Rest of Europe, Galapagos, to find out more about this exciting milestone.
Marcel De Jong, Country Head, Rest of Europe at Galapagos
Interviewer (I): Hi Marcel, thank you for making the time to join me today. I’m keen to understand a bit more about the new third party distributor and what this means for Galapagos.
(M): Happy to be here.
I: Could you explain why Galapagos is appointing a full-service distribution and commercialization partner across Central Eastern Europe and Portugal?
M: Galapagos’ commercial operations initially have been focused on the EU5 countries (UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France), Ireland, BeNelux, Nordics and the Alpine countries where the brand is traditionally launched first. That is a lot of countries for Galapagos to manage! Like many Biotech companies, we currently do not have employees or a presence in the rest of Europe and setting up a new structure and team in these countries is not the most agile approach and would take significant time and some investment. As we want to make our medicines available to appropriate patients across the rest of Europe as soon as possible a distribution and commercialization partner is an effective route to achieving this.
I: What is a distribution and commercialization partner and what are the benefits of working with one?
M: Using a regional distribution and commercialization partner can support pharmaceutical or biotech companies by enabling access to medications in counties that the marketing authorization holder does not have commercial operations. . This model, which you tend to see in smaller European countries, is something that has become more prevalent in the pharmaceutical industry over the last few years. Biotech companies like Galapagos, do not always have a commercial presence in every European market so a distribution and commercialization agreement offers many advantages. Firstly, the partner is established in that market with legal entities and local in-house support services, secondly the model allows the originator company to get their medicine to the market more quickly and thirdly it provides access to these new medicines for the customers and patients.
I: Could you describe what a third-party distribution and commercialization partner would do?
M: The partner has a dedicated marketing, medical and sales team and will sell and engage with the same type of customer that Galapagos does, but off course only in the countries that are covered in the agreement. They also take the full local regulatory, Jyseleca distribution, pricing and market access responsibility. The third-party employees go through all the necessary training to ensure consistency across messaging, materials and information.
I: How do you chose a third-party partner?
M: It’s a long and lengthy process and it’s critical that the right partner is selected. For Galapagos, the process started in February 2021 and there was a core team who worked hard to establish the ideal partner for this venture. Once the partner was selected, we needed to work out the terms and conditions of the agreement and ensure a robust contract was in place, this included the ability for the third-party partner to start all the necessary work to act on our behalf. On top of the contract there will be regular touch points, functional working groups and Joint Steering Committee to ensure the performance of the agreement is monitored and aligned with plans and expectations.
I: Will the medicine branding and strategy be retained?
M: Yes. This is important to build a global brand for our medicine. The Integrated Strategic Plan, Brand Book, guidelines, assets, conference materials will all be shared with the partner and they will follow and implement those in their local markets.
I: How can the Galapagos brand be built through this approach?
M: Galapagos NV remains the Marketing Authorization Holder and this is communicated to all our customers. Using a partner enhances Galapagos’s commitment to getting innovative medicines to patients who need them and working in partnership with a distributor, supports the brand of both companies.
I: Do any other pharmaceutical or biotech companies work in this way?
M: The distribution and commercialization agreement is a cost-effective model for pharmaceutical and Biotech companies to expand access of their medicines to a wider group of patients in markets where they themselves don’t have a commercial presence. It’s especially popular model for Biotech companies that have fewer brands and for bigger pharma companies who use this model for their mature or speciality brands.
I: What does it take for this sort of deal to be agreed?
M: As you can appreciate, a deal like this is a huge team effort with many moving parts. There was input and support from all functions across Galapagos including colleagues from : Regulatory, Commercial, Medical, Trainingand Pharmacovigilance , Quality, Legal, Finance and Supply and Distribution to name a few!
I: Why is this a good step forward for Galapagos in becoming an integrated Biotech company with a European footprint?
M: The opportunity to bring our medicines to market in Europe is a significant milestone for Galapagos in becoming an integrated Biotech company with a full European footprint. The natural step was to ensure it is accessible for patients across the region elevating Galapagos as a player with proven R&D and successful commercialization of our important brand.
I: Thank you so much for taking the time to explain the importance of this new third party distributor partnership.
M: My pleasure