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Gilead Partners Second Genome, Boosts Coronavirus Drug Production

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Gilead Sciences, Inc. (GILD - Free Report) struck a four-year strategic collaboration deal with Second Genome, a leader in microbiome science.

The collaboration aims to identify biomarkers associated with clinical response in up to five of Gilead’s pipeline compounds in inflammation, fibrosis and other diseases. It also intends to identify potential new targets and drug candidates for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Per the terms, Second Genome will receive an upfront payment of $38 million and approximately $300 million in success-based preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones for each of the five target discovery programs as well as low-double-digit royalties for any approved product. In addition, it will receive success-based milestones for each validated biomarker delivered under the agreement.

Meanwhile, Gilead stated that it will accelerate the production of its experimental coronavirus treatment, remdesivir. It has reduced the end-to-end manufacturing timeline from approximately one year to around six months. The company targets producing more than 500,000 treatment courses by October and more than one million treatment courses by the end of this year. The company’s existing supply of 1.5 million individual doses are available for compassionate use, expanded access and clinical trials and will be donated for broader distribution following any potential future regulatory authorizations.

Currently, there are no FDA-approved treatments for the severe illness caused by SARS-CoV-2. Given the alarming levels of spread and severity, some approved drugs or pipeline candidates are being tested to see if these are effective in treating the infected patients.

Gilead is currently working to evaluate the safety and efficacy of remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19, at the earliest, in multiple ongoing studies.

Remdesivir is being used in the United States for the treatment of the disease under federal rules that allow the use of unapproved drugs on compassionate grounds. The candidate was previously under testing for the Ebola virus.

The company has provided emergency access to remdesivir for hundreds of patients in the United States, Europe and Japan.

As the candidate has shown promising results in infected patients, investors are banking on Gilead for being the first company to come up with a treatment for this deadly disease. Initial data from the ongoing studies are expected in the upcoming weeks.

Gilead’s shares have gained 14.9% this year so far against the industry’s decline of 7.5%.

 

While the company is pioneering the race for developing a potential cure for COVID-19, other companies have joined the bandwagon as well.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN - Free Report) too has identified antibodies, which can possibly treat coronavirus. Regeneron and partner Sanofi (SNY - Free Report) are also evaluating their rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug, Kevzara, to treat patients hospitalized with severe infection due to COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) recently announced the selection of a lead coronavirus vaccine candidate.

Gilead currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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