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Gilead (GILD) Partners With Merck for Keytruda in NSCLC Study

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Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD - Free Report) announced it has entered into two clinical trial collaboration and supply agreements with pharma giant Merck (MRK - Free Report) .

Both the companies will collaborate to evaluate the combination of Gilead’s Trop-2 targeting antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) Trodelvy (sacituzumab govitecan-hziy) and Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy Keytruda in first-line metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

We note that Trodelvy is approved for adults with second-line metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in the United States and the European Union. It has also been approved under the accelerated approval pathway for the treatment of metastatic urothelial cancer (UC) in adults who have received certain prior therapies.

Keytruda is approved for various oncology indications.

Per the terms, Merck will sponsor a global phase III study for the above-mentioned combination as a first-line treatment for patients with metastatic NSCLC.

Everest Medicines will also participate in the phase III study in Asia through its existing collaboration agreement with Gilead.

In October 2021, Gilead and Merck collaborated to evaluate Trodelvy in combination with Keytruda as a first-line treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic TNBC.

The successful development of Trodelvy in lucrative indications like NSCLC will boost Gilead’s oncology franchise.

Shares of Gilead have gained 16.1% in the year against the industry’s 31.3% decline.

Zacks Investment ResearchImage Source: Zacks Investment Research

Gilead has a strong HIV portfolio. Its HIV therapy Biktarvy continues to drive growth despite the ongoing impact of the pandemic and should maintain the momentum. However, the loss of exclusivity of Truvada and Atripla has affected the HIV franchise’s performance.

Competition is intense in the HIV market from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK - Free Report) and others.

Glaxo reported 8% growth in its HIV franchise in the third quarter, driven by its new HIV products Dovato, Juluca, Rukobia and Cabenuva.

Gilead is also looking to develop additional treatments to maintain its dominance in this space.

The decline in its legacy HCV business and increasing competition in the HIV business propelled Gilead to diversify into the lucrative oncology space, which promises great potential despite fierce competition.

To that end, Gilead has made good progress of late. It recently exercised its options for three programs in the Arcus Biosciences, Inc. clinical-stage oncology portfolio. The programs include both anti-TIGIT molecules domvanalimab and AB308, besides etrumadenant ((A2a/A2b Adenosine Receptor Antagonist) and quemliclustat (small Molecule CD73 Inhibitor).

Zacks Rank & Stock to Consider

Gilead currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the biotech sector is Vir Biotechnology (VIR - Free Report) which sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Earnings estimates for Vir have moved up $4.76 in the past 30 days for 2022. VIR is up 19% in the past year.