Why Gilead Is Banking Big on Hepatitis B and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) shares were up handily on Wednesday after the company announced that it had entered into a strategic collaboration with Precision BioSciences to develop therapies targeting the in vivo elimination of hepatitis B virus (HBV) with Precision’s proprietary genome editing platform, ARCUS.

Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, Precision will be primarily responsible for the development, formulation and preclinical evaluation of the investigational nucleases, and Gilead will be responsible for the clinical development and commercialization of potential therapies.

Also, Gilead will fully fund the research and development. Precision is eligible to receive milestone payments of up to an aggregate of $445 million and tiered royalties that go up to the mid-teens for commercial products developed through the collaboration.

John McHutchison, MD, chief scientific officer and head of Research and Development at Gilead, commented:

Gilead is committed to developing innovative therapies to achieve functional cure for patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection. We are excited about the potential of genome editing and Precision’s ARCUS technology, which has demonstrated promising in vitro activity. We look forward to exploring this technology as an important component of our HBV cure research efforts.

Separately, Gilead announced results from its rheumatoid arthritis trial. The company said that its drug filgotinib was generally well-tolerated in the FINCH 2 trial, with no new safety signals compared to those reported in previous trials of filgotinib.

Also, the Phase 3 study of filgotinib achieved its primary endpoint in the proportion of patients achieving an American College of Rheumatology 20% response (ACR20) at Week 12. Also at Weeks 12 and 24, the proportion of patients achieving ACR50 and ACR70, low disease activity and clinical remission were significantly higher for patients receiving once-daily filgotinib 100 mg or 200 mg compared to patients receiving placebo.

Shares of Gilead were last seen up about 4% at $75.13 on Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $87.87 and a 52-week range of $64.27 to $89.54.

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