CSR report


In 2020, Galapagos brought its first medicine to patients in Europe. It was the year in which the commercial side of our business stepped into the spotlight.

We spoke to team leaders Michele Manto and Emma Chaffin, who told us the story from both an international and national perspective. Hear about the year’s activities and highlights and their vision for the future.

"Today, the moon.
Tomorrow, who knows?"

We asked Michele Manto, our Chief Commercial Officer, about the exciting past, present and future of our commercial opportunities.

5 Questions

for Michele Manto,
Chief Commercial Officer

1. Michele, first tell us about your role and team.

I joined Galapagos in September 2017 as the first-ever head of Commercial. In fact, I was the only ‘head’ literally, because I was the sole member of the team. I was in a role that hadn’t existed before and given a blank sheet of paper to take Galapagos on a journey to become a fully integrated biotech company. Of course, more colleagues joined me and step by step we’re building our legacy, individually and together. That’s an exhilarating thing about Galapagos: anything you do is your legacy. Today, we are a strong and diverse team across Europe.

2. Our first medicine was approved in September 2020. What are the key qualities we needed to realize an achievement like that?

First, preparation. Because the adventure started more than 15 years ago with our R&D colleagues in the labs in Leiden. Since then, they’ve been through ups and downs, and partnerships have been lost and restarted. But when others might have stopped, they persevered. That’s the difference. It took a strong belief, and it took some grit. We have a powerful combination of excellent science, business acumen and the understanding of how to attract the right partners. It’s the science and the partnerships that have been done that allow Galapagos to thrive and our medicines to get to market.

3. What does commercial success look like in 2021?

For Galapagos, 2021 is like taking the first step on the moon. We’ve built the rockets, done all the training, and we’ve just landed. The first sales are coming from early launch countries like Germany and the Netherlands. Next is to finalize the reimbursement in the other European countries. Thanks to the recently renewed agreement with Gilead, we will be commercializing Jyseleca in all Europe. It’s exciting to see that in the countries where we’ve launched, we’re receiving positive feedback from customers, who welcome us as a new partner.

4. Thinking about patients, is there a difference in unmet need between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) & ulcerative colitis (UC)?

In both diseases patients have still important unmet needs. In RA, less than half of eligible patients receive an advanced therapy, like biologics or JAK inhibitors. In UC it is only one quarter. This means that for thousands of patients it will still take many years to get their disease under control. Rheumatologists still cannot achieve remission for all their patients, who too often settle for a good enough solution that does not resolve their pain and inability to be back to normal activities. For ulcerative colitis, the need is even larger. Patients experience first symptoms usually before the age of 30, and with only a handful of approved advanced treatments, 20-30% require total colectomy, a surgical procedure to remove all or part of the colon. This brings a major psychological burden and limits the ability to study, work and have a normal social life. For both RA and UC, there is also the demand for a reassuring safety profile and convenience of administration. These needs motivate us every day to develop novel treatments and bring them to patients.

5. Imagine it’s 31 December 2021. What would make you most happy as you look back over the year?

We would look back with pride at the patients we have helped, the physicians we have partnered with and the first commercial sales. And we’d be proud that we were operating throughout the whole of Europe in less than two years after we first envisioned we would do this. It’s an amazing journey we have ahead of us, and we can do it. This is not a dream; it is a plan. By the end of the year, we can look back and say “we did it!” That’s when I’d like to take a group picture with all the colleagues across Europe to celebrate this step - and toast at what more we can do together.

"Together we make it happen" with Emma Chaffin