As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we continue to innovate to accommodate for the new situation and minimize the impact to operations. We closely follow local governmental measures and apply these as appropriate within our organization, guided and supported by our dedicated COVID-19 task force teams. All local and global task force teams meet regularly and make recommendations directly to the COO.
We report the following impacts for 2021:
In 2021, we continued to follow the strict measures put in place to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect the physical and mental health of our staff. We rolled out our global and site-specific business continuity plans and continue to take appropriate recommended precautions.
During lock-down periods, we arranged for essential tasks to be carried out within our facilities. Consequently, the majority of our Research staff continues to work from the office/labs, with periodic exceptions for local lockdowns during which no staff is allowed into the facilities. For those employees coming to the office, we maintain stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols, and we strictly respect social distancing policies at all times in order to minimize risk of exposure.
Based on the learnings from the first year of the pandemic, we piloted and gradually implemented a hybrid working model in 2021, in locations where the ongoing COVID-19 situation and corresponding local governmental measures permitted to do so.
Additionally, we learned that most of the international travel could be replaced by virtual meetings, resulting in improved cost efficiency, a better work-life balance, and a reduced carbon footprint. The positive impact of this forced way-of-working has been retained and has become part of our corporate travel guidance.
- Research portfolio
By prioritizing the most advanced projects very early on, increasing the flexibility of our staff in the labs within projects, maintaining our hiring efforts as planned, and increasing our outsourcing, we sustained our research delivery, kept the compound management facility running at all times, and continued our early drug research and the implementation of new modalities for target or drug discovery.
The scorecard of the research department objectives shows a similar productivity compared to previous years, indicating that we were able to minimize the impact, at least on the short term.
- Development portfolio
We have a business continuity plan for our clinical development programs. We closely monitor each program in context of the current global and local situation of the pandemic and the associated specific regulatory, institutional, government guidance and policies related to COVID-19. Within the boundaries of these guidances and policies, and in consultation with our CROs and clinical trial sites, we applied various measures to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our clinical development programs, with the primary aim to ensure the safety of our trial participants and to preserve the data integrity and scientific validity of the trials. These measures were implemented on a case-by-case basis, tailored to the specific study and country needs at any given time, with specific attention paid to vulnerable populations and the use of investigational medicines with immunosuppressive properties. The measures include, amongst others, increased, transparent communication to all stakeholders and the direct supply of investigational medicines to patients. For each clinical trial, we actively monitor and document the impact of COVID-19 to mitigate the study where necessary and to facilitate the interpretation and reporting of results.
- Filgotinib filing process UC
As of publication of this report, our collaboration partner Gilead had not been informed by the regulatory agency in Japan of approval timeline delays.
- Manufacturing and supply chain
To date, there has been no COVID-19 impact to the commercial supply of filgotinib. All sites involved in the manufacturing of filgotinib are established sites that currently manufacture other marketed products and are in good standing with the FDA and are GMP certified. Galapagos became marketing authorization holder of filgotinib in the European Economic Area and Great Britain end 2021, and is responsible for manufacturing. The same manufacturing sites as Gilead continue to supply filgotinib except for secondary packaging and labelling for which a new vendor has been selected.
- Commercial organization
The form of outreach of our commercial teams to physicians and hospitals was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent travel restrictions, and thus became partially virtual. The teams invested in digital channels as part of the overall commercial build strategy, and these channels are being utilized during our ongoing commercial launch. Thus far we note no material impact on the relative competitiveness of our commercial operations due to travel restrictions, nor has there been an impact of COVID-19 on our ability to engage in market access discussions. Nevertheless, healthcare systems are under pressure across Europe, increasing the volatility in reimbursement procedures and potentially reducing the number of new therapy options initiated by healthcare providers.