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Gilead Inks Gene Editing Collaboration Deal for HBV Infection


Gilead Sciences, Inc. GILD announced that it has entered into a strategic collaboration with privately held Precision BioSciences to develop therapies aimed at eliminating hepatitis B virus (HBV) using the latter’s gene editing platform ARCUS.

Precision BioSciences’ ARCUS is a technologically advanced genome editing platform obtained from a natural genome editing enzyme called a homing endonuclease. The platform has already gained an important role for genome editing in the HBV program. Gilead said that preliminary studies using ARCUS nucleases demonstrated a significant activity against the integrated HBV DNA in human hepatocytes.

Per the agreement, Precision will take the responsibility of developing, formulating and preclinical evaluation of the investigational nucleases while Gilead will take care of clinical development of any therapies emerging from the deal. The company will fund the entire research and development program. Gilead is entitled to pay up to $445 million to Precision BioSciences as potential milestone payments and tiered royalties up to the mid-teens on commercial sales.

Per the press release, there are more than 257 million people, diagnosed with HBV infection across the globe. The current available treatments subdue the HBV viral replication but cannot completely eliminate the virus. This collaboration program will solely concentrate on developing such therapies that completely eradicate the HBV virus.

Shares of Gilead have increased 3.1% year to date versus the industry’s decline of 5.1%.

On Tuesday, Gilead along with its Belgo-Dutch partner Galapagos NV GLPG announced that a phase III FINCH 2 study on rheumatoid arthritis candidate, filgotinib, was successful.

Filgotinib, an investigational, selective JAK1 inhibitor met all primary and key secondary endpoints in first phase III study for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Notably in February 2018, Gilead signed a similar collaborative agreement with Sangamo Therapeutics SGMO for developing gene-edited cell therapies to address cancer using the latter's zinc finger nuclease technology platform.

Zacks Rank & Stock to Consider

Gilead currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). Another top-ranked stock in the healthcare sector is Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. LGND, carrying a Zacks Rank of 1. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Ligand’s earnings estimates have been raised 28.4% for 2018 and 6.5% for 2019 over the past 60 days. The stock has soared 87.3 year to date.

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