Gilead Sciences GILD entered into a research collaboration and license agreement with Hookipa Biotech AG. Per the agreement, Gilead will own exclusive rights to Hookipa's TheraT and Vaxwave arenavirus vector-based immunization technologies for two major chronic infectious disease indications, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). While research work will be carried out by both, Hookipa will manufacture arenavirus-based vectors for clinical development by Gilead.
In exchange, Gilead will provide an upfront payment of $10 million. In addition, Hookipa will be eligible to receive payments up to a total of more than $400 million based upon the achievement of specified development, regulatory and commercial milestones. Moreover, Gilead will fund all research and development activities. Hookipa will also be eligible to receive tiered royalties on net sales.
The agreement further expands the relationship between Hookipa and Gilead following Gilead's participation in Hookipa's Series C financing in Dec 2017. Hookipa's unique therapeutic vaccine technology demonstrated excellent safety and immunogenicity in phase I studies.
Gilead is banking on its HIV franchise to drive growth in future, given the persistent decline in HCV sales. Gilead's stock has lost 3.0% in the last six months as against the industry' s loss of 5.2%.
Gilead's HCV franchise witnessed slowdown across key markets, including the United States and Europe, reflecting lower sales of Harvoni and Sovaldi as a result of competitive and pricing pressure. The franchise saw a significant plunge in sales due to new competition and fewer patient starts.
Pricing has largely stabilized and market share will stabilize by mid-2018, while patient starts are expected to decline further. We note that Harvoni, Sovaldi and Epclusa face competition from AbbVie's ABBV Viekira Pak and Mayret, and Merck's MRK Zepatier among others.
Meanwhile, Gilead is looking to newer avenues to help its top line by solidifying its presence in the gene therapy space. The initial uptake of Yescarta is also encouraging. Gilead is also intending to foray into the NASH market with pipeline candidates - selonsertib and filgotinib.
During the first quarter, Gilead announced an agreement with Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc. SGMO to use Sangamo's zinc finger nuclease technology platform for the development of next-generation ex vivo cell therapies in oncology.
Gilead currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
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