American biotech firm Gilead Sciences could help treat the deadly coronavirus, via its drug remdesivir, an official from the World Health Organization said on Monday.
As a result, Gilead shares rose nearly 5%. Gilead Sciences (GILD) was the second-best performing stock in the S&P 500 and was just one of two stocks in the Nasdaq-100 that was trading higher on Monday, when the Dow plunged more than 1,000 points precisely because the disease was spreading to Italy, South Korea and Iran.
“There is only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy and that’s remdesivir,” Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said at a press conference in Beijing.
WHO officials stated that clinical trials for remdesivir in humans are ongoing, with results probably being available within months.
According to CNN Business, Gilead Sciences confirmed it is working with health authorities in China on two trials for patients infected with Covid-19, the exact name of this coronavirus strain. “The two studies — one in patients with severe disease and another in patients with moderate disease — are currently enrolling participants and we anticipate results in April,” the Gilead Sciences spokesman said.
Earlier this month, Gilead Sciences said it has been working with Chinese health authorities to see if remdesivir, an experimental drug used to treat the Ebola virus, could fight coronavirus symptoms.The company also said in a statement a few weeks ago that remdesivir has demonstrated some success in treating MERS and SARS in animals, two viruses similar to the Wuhan coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a new study conducted by InCrowd Data reveals that U.S. physicians are not confident about the country’s preparedness to treat the novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, citing significant gaps in the healthcare system with testing and treatment.
The doctors said they had either put in their own protocols or were following recommended protocols. Based on confidence with these procedures, they were not overly concerned about the novel coronavirus.
A Chicago woman was diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this month, but remained in good condition in isolation, according to officials.
Health officials announced the first US case of person-to-person spread of the virus and the second case in Illinois – the husband of the Chicago woman.
The woman, in her 60s, developed symptoms after a January visit to China’s Wuhan region, where the virus outbreak originated. At the time she was the second person in America to be officially diagnosed with the infection.
Gilead Sciences is not the only drug firm hoping to find a successful treatment for the coronavirus. Moderna Inc, Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc, and Novavax Inc have all announced they are working to develop vaccinations against the virus. Pharmaceutical giants Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are also working on vaccines.
Biotech company AbbVie (ABBV) has said that it has seen promising results for treatment using a mixture of two of its HIV medications and Tamiflu, which is made by Swiss pharma giant Roche (RHHBF) and Japan’s Chugai Pharmaceutical Co (CHGCY).
If remdesivir proves to efficiently treat coronavirus, that could be a plus for the company if approved, but there are other reasons for buying shares of Gilead Sciences.
Another Gilead drug, filgotinib, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, is now under review at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Addressing a much broader market, this treatment could compensate for declines in sales of the company’s older drugs.
In December, Gilead Sciences submitted filgotinib to the FDA along with a priority review voucher, which reduces the review time. Standard review takes about 10 months, while priority review is completed in about six months.
In the earnings report, Gilead Sciences said that at year end, it had $25.8 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable debt securities, meaning it has the resources to support pipeline development. Of the more than 35 drug candidates, seven are in phase 3 trials, filgotinib for the rheumatoid arthritis indication not being included in that number.
For Gilead Sciences, the opportunity is significant. The global rheumatoid arthritis market is forecast to reach $34 billion by 2025, according to Fortune Business Insights, which said the North American market alone was worth $9.9 billion in 2017. Overall, an estimated 22.7% (54.4 million) of adults had doctor-diagnosed arthritis. EvaluatePharma predicts filgotinib could bring in global sales of $1.3 billion in 2024. Gilead Sciences has also applied for approval in Europe and Japan. Filgotinib has the potential for launches in five new indications over the next four years, the company said in its recent earnings call. Indications now in late-stage trials include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriatic arthritis.
Despite a 15% drop in chronic hepatitis C product sales in the fourth quarter, which disappointed investors, and resulted in earnings of $1.3 per share less than expected by analysts, HIV product sales rose 12% in the quarter and for the whole year’. The HIV drug market is growing; Allied Market Research predicts it will reach $26 billion by 2022 from $20 billion in 2015. However, last year the company was sued by the federal government in relation to infringement of HHS patents. The US federal government, on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, filed a complaint on November 6th 2019 in federal district court against Gilead, seeking damages for Gilead’s infringement of HHS patents related to pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) for HIV prevention.
Even so, Gilead Sciences might be a stock to buy, because it develops products for vast markets, which could mean growing revenues in the years to come. And, of course, if they are able to put a treatment for coronavirus on the market their business will be even more blooming.