Paul Stoffels swiftly resurfaces as Galapagos’ next CEO

Paul Stoffels’ retirement at the end of last year after nine years as head of R&D at Johnson & Johnson was short lived – he’s just been named chef executive of Galapagos.

Stoffels will take the helm of the troubled Belgian biotech on 1 April, when Galapagos’ long-serving CEO and co-founder Onno van de Stolpe starts his own retirement after 22 years at the company.

Belgium-born Stoffels will join Galapagos after a challenging period for the company, which is in the throes of launching its JAK1 inhibitor Jyseleca (filgotinib) for rheumatoid arthritis in Europe and Japan, but not the US after the FDA rejected the drug amid safety concerns.

While the US problems stemmed from a broader probe by the US regulator into the JAK class, the delay led partner Gilead Sciences – which bought into Galapagos pipeline in a $5.1 billion deal announced in 2019 – to hand back rights to the Belgian firm.

It’s also suffered setbacks to some key pipeline projects including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) candidate ziritaxestat, two SIK inhibitors for psoriasis and ulcerative colitis, and Servier-partnered AdamTS-5 inhibitor GLPG1972 for osteoarthritis.

The appointment of a CEO with Stoffels’ R&D credentials will be welcomed by investors in Galapagos, given that the biotech’s chief scientific officer Piet Wigerinck also ended his tenure at the company last year to set up his own consultancy.

“Given his extraordinary R&D as well as managerial experience, extensive network, along with his deep understanding of Galapagos’ strengths and potential, we are convinced that Paul is uniquely qualified to lead Galapagos,” said Dr Raj Parekh, Galapagos’ chairman.

Stoffels was in charge of the R&D operations at J&J throughout a renaissance of the company’s pharma operations, overseeing the development of more than 25 new medicines across multiple therapeutic areas, including of course the company’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine.

“I was closely involved in the foundation of Galapagos by Crucell and Tibotec in 1999 and have been following the company as it matured into the fully-fledged biopharma that it is today,” he said, hailing the biotech’s “entrepreneurial culture and unwavering commitment to innovation.”

Stoffels is also reported to have wanted to leave J&J because of the burden of travel between Europe and the US and to spend more time with his family, so joining a biotech in his home country makes perfect sense.

van de Stolpe also welcomed the appointment, saying that Stoffels “has a keen understanding of our roots as well as who we are today.

“I strongly believe that Paul’s strategic and inspirational leadership, along with his deep knowledge of both the industry and Galapagos, make him the right next CEO to deliver tremendous value to all stakeholders, including investors, shareholders and patients,” he added.

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