|Founded||June 22, 1987|
|Headquarters||Foster City, California, United States|
|Revenue||US$22.45 billion (2019)|
|US$4.29 billion (2019)|
|US$5.39 billion (2019)|
|Total assets||US$61.63 billion (2019)|
|Total equity||US$22.65 billion (2019)|
Number of employees
Gilead Sciences, Inc. //, is an American biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Foster City, California, that focuses on researching and developing antiviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and influenza, including Harvoni and Sovaldi. Gilead is a member of the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index and the S&P 500.
The company has been the subject of significant controversy over its business practices, including extremely high pricing of drugs such as Sovaldi and Truvada in the United States relative to production cost and cost in the developing world.
|Gregg Alton of Gilead Sciences & others, "The Evolution of HIV/AIDS Therapies: A Conversation", 2012, Chemical Heritage Foundation via Vimeo|
In June 1987, Gilead Sciences was originally founded under the name Oligogen by Michael L. Riordan, a medical doctor. Riordan graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the Harvard Business School. Three scientific advisers worked with Riordan to create the company: Peter Dervan of Caltech, Doug Melton of Harvard, and Harold M. Weintraub of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Riordan served as CEO from the company's founding until 1996. Menlo Ventures, a venture capital firm where Riordan had previously worked, made the first investment in Gilead of $2 million. Riordan also recruited scientific advisers including Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate who later became Director of the National Institutes of Health, and Jack Szostak, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2009.
The company's primary therapeutic focus was in antiviral medicines, a field that interested Riordan after he contracted dengue fever. Riordan recruited Donald Rumsfeld to join the board of directors in 1988, followed by Benno C. Schmidt, Sr., Gordon Moore, and George P. Shultz. Riordan tried to recruit Warren Buffett as an investor and board member, but was unsuccessful.
The company focused its early research on making small strands of DNA (oligomers, or more particularly, oligonucleotides) to target specific genetic code sequences – that is, antisense therapy, a form of gene therapy. Because of the expected healing potential of such research, Oligogen soon changed its name to Gilead Sciences, after the reputed healing properties of the ancient Balm of Gilead. By 1988, the company had moved its headquarters to Foster City's Vintage Park neighborhood, where it has been based ever since. The company began to develop small molecule antiviral therapeutics in 1991, when the company in-licensed a group of nucleotide compounds including tenofovir.
Gilead's antisense intellectual property portfolio was sold to Ionis Pharmaceuticals. Gilead debuted on the NASDAQ in January 1992. Its initial public offering raised $86.25 million in proceeds.
In January 1997, Donald Rumsfeld was appointed Chairman, but left the board in January 2001 when he was appointed United States Secretary of Defense during George W. Bush's first term as president.
In March 1999, Gilead acquired NeXstar Pharmaceuticals of Boulder, Colorado. At the time, NeXstar's annual sales of $130 million was three times Gilead's sales; it sold AmBisome, an injectable fungal treatment, and DaunoXome, an oncology drug taken by HIV patients. That same year, Roche announced FDA approval of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) for the treatment of influenza. Tamiflu was originally discovered by Gilead and licensed to Roche for late-phase development and marketing.
One reason for entering into the Tamiflu licensing agreement was that with only 350 employees, Gilead still did not yet have the capability to sell its drugs directly to overseas buyers. To avoid having to license future drugs in order to access international markets, Gilead simply acquired the 480-employee NeXstar, which had already built its own sales force in Europe to market AmBisome there.
2000 to 2009
In December 2002, Gilead and Triangle Pharmaceuticals announced that Gilead would acquire Triangle for around $464 million; Triangle's lead drug was emtricitabine that was near FDA approval, and it had two other antivirals in its pipeline. The company also announced its first full year of profitability. Later that year, Hepsera (adefovir) was approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B, and Emtriva (emtricitabine) for the treatment of HIV.
During this era, Gilead completed its gradual evolution from a biotech startup into a pharmaceutical company. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that by 2003, the Gilead corporate campus in Foster City had expanded to "seven low-slung sand-colored buildings around a tiny lake on which ducks happily paddle." Like many startups, Gilead originally leased its space, but in 2004, the company paid $123 million to buy all its headquarters buildings from its landlords. However, even as Gilead developed its ability to distribute and sell its own drugs, it remained distinct from most pharmaceutical companies in terms of its strong reliance on subcontracting most of its manufacturing to contract manufacturing organizations.
In 2004, Gilead launched Truvada. Years later, through efforts of activists and other groups, Gilead was convinced that a fixed-dose combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine could be used as a pre-exposure prophylactic against the transmission of HIV.
In 2004, during the Avian Flu pandemic scare, Gilead Sciences' revenue from Tamiflu almost quadrupled to $44.6m as more than 60 national governments stockpiled the antiviral drug, though the firm had made a loss in 2003 before concern about the flu started. As stocks soared, US Defense Secretary and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld sold shares of the company, receiving more than $5 million in capital gains, while still maintaining up to $25m-worth of shares by the end of the year. Sales of Tamiflu almost quadrupled again in 2005, to $161.6m, during which time the share price tripled. A 2005 report showed that, in all, Rumsfeld owned shares worth up to $95.9m, from which he got an income of up to $13m. Rumsfeld profiting from his investments in Gilead during a pandemic scare while in office sparked controversy, with many mainstream news outlets reporting his investments as a conflict of interest, particularly after the Pentagon ordered $58m worth of Tamiflu for US troops in July 2005. On October 27, 2005, Rumsfeld recused himself from any official decision making about the drug; the New York Times reported, "Mr. Rumsfeld will remain involved in matters related to the Pentagon response to an outbreak, so long as none affect Gilead."
In 2006, Gilead completed two acquisitions that allowed the company to branch out from its historical antiviral franchise into the cardiovascular and respiratory therapeutic arenas. Under an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline, Myogen marketed Flolan (epoprostenol sodium) in the United States for the treatment of primary pulmonary hypertension. Additionally, Myogen was developing (in Phase 3 studies) darusentan, also an endothelin receptor antagonist, for the potential treatment of resistant hypertension.
In 2006, the company acquired Corus Pharma, Inc. for $365 million. The acquisition of Corus signaled Gilead's entry into the respiratory arena. Corus was developing aztreonam lysine for the treatment of patients with cystic fibrosis who are infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
In July 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Atripla, a once a day single tablet regimen for HIV, combining Sustiva (efavirenz), a Bristol-Myers Squibb product, and Truvada (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil), a Gilead product.
Gilead purchased Raylo Chemicals, Inc. in November 2006, for a price of US$133.3 million. Raylo Chemical, based in Edmonton, Alberta, was a wholly owned subsidiary of Degussa AG, a German company. Raylo Chemical was a custom manufacturer of active pharmaceutical ingredients and advanced intermediates for the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries. Later in the same year, Gilead acquired Myogen, Inc. for $2.5 billion (then its largest acquisition). With two drugs in development (ambrisentan and darusentan), and one marketed product (Flolan) for pulmonary diseases, the acquisition of Myogen has solidified Gilead's position in this therapeutic arena.
Gilead expanded its move into respiratory therapeutics in 2007 by entering into a licensing agreement with Parion for an epithelial sodium channel inhibitor for the treatment of pulmonary diseases, including cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis.
In 2009, the company acquired CV Therapeutics, Inc. for $1.4 billion, bringing Ranexa and Lexiscan into Gilead. Ranexa is a cardiovascular drug used to treat chest pain related to coronary artery disease, with both of these products and pipeline building out Gilead's cardiovascular franchise. Later that year, the company was named one of the Fastest Growing Companies by Fortune.
2010 to 2019
In 2010, the company acquired CGI Pharmaceuticals for $120 million, expanding Gilead's research expertise into kinase biology and chemistry. Later that year, the company acquired Arresto Biosciences, Inc. for $225 million, obtaining developmental-stage research for treating fibrotic diseases and cancer.
In February 2011, the company acquired Calistoga Pharmaceuticals for US$375 million ($225 million plus milestone payments). The acquisition boosted Gilead's oncology and inflammation areas. Later that year, Gilead made its most important acquisition – and by then most expensive – with the US$10.4 billion purchase of Pharmasset, Inc. This transaction helped cement Gilead as the leader in treatment of the hepatitis C virus by giving it control of sofosbuvir (see below).
In October 2011, Gilead broke ground on a massive multi-year expansion of its 17-building headquarters campus in Foster City. By replacing eight one or two-story buildings with seven new structures ranging as tall as 10 stories, Gilead nearly doubled its headquarters real estate footprint from about 620,000 square feet to about 1.2 million square feet.
On July 16, 2012, the FDA approved Gilead's Truvada for prevention of HIV infection (it was already approved for treating HIV). The pill was a preventive measure (PrEP) for people at high risk of getting HIV through sexual activity.
In 2013, the company acquired YM Biosciences, Inc. for $510 million. The acquisition brings drug candidate CYT387, an orally-administered, once-daily, selective inhibitor of the Janus kinase (JAK) family, specifically JAK1 and JAK2, into Gilead's oncology pipeline. The JAK enzymes have been implicated in myeloproliferative diseases, inflammatory disorders, and certain cancers.
In 2015, the company made a trio of acquisitions:
- It bought Phenex Pharmaceuticals for $470 million. Its Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) program used small-molecule FXR agonists in the treatment of liver diseases such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
- It bought EpiTherapeutics for $65 million. This acquisition gave Gilead first-in-class small molecule inhibitors of histone demethylases involved in regulating gene transcription in cancer.
- It paid $425 million for a 15% equity stake in Galapagos NV, with additional payments for Gilead to license the experimental anti-inflammatory drug filgotinib, which may treat rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.
In 2016, the company acquired Nimbus Apollo, Inc. for $400 million, giving Gilead control of the compound NDI-010976 (an ACC inhibitor) and other preclinical ACC inhibitors for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and for the potential treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. Also in 2016, the company was named the most generous company on the 2016 Fortune list of The Most Generous Companies of the Fortune 500. Charitable donations to HIV/AIDS and liver disease organizations totaled over 440 million in 2015.
In August 2017, the company announced it would acquire Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion, equating to $180 cash per share, a 29% premium over the closing price of the shares. The deal will add the promising CAR-T candidate to the companys existing portfolio. In November, the company announced it will acquire Cell Design Labs for up to $567 million, after it indirectly acquired a stake of 12.2% via the Kite Pharma deal.
On May 9, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that Gilead Sciences will donate Truvada, the only drug approved to prevent infection with H.I.V., for free to 200,000 patients annually for 11 years. On December 3, 2019, HHS explained how the government would distribute the donated drugs. HHS Secretary Alex Azar explained that the U.S. government will pay Gilead $200 per bottle for 30 pills for costs associated with getting the drug from factories into the eventual hands of patients.
In March 2020, the company announced it would acquire Forty Seven Inc. for $95.50 a share ($4.9 billion in total). On April 7, 2020, Gilead completed acquisition of Forty Seven, Inc. for "$95.50 per share, net to the seller in cash, without interest, or approximately $4.9 billion in the aggregate."
In June 2020, Bloomberg reported that AstraZeneca Plc had made a preliminary approach to Gilead for a potential merger, worth almost $240 billion. In the same month, the company announced it would acquire a 49.9% stake in privately held Pionyr Immunotherapeutics Inc for $275 million.
In September 2020, Gilead announced it had reached a deal to acquire Immunomedics for $21 billion ($88 per share), gaining control of the cancer treatment Trodelvy (Sacituzumab govitecan-hziy) – a first-in-class Trop-2 antibody-drug conjugate. In December, the business announced it would acquire German biotech, MYR GmbH, for €1.15 billion plus up to a further €300 million. MYR focuses on the treatment of chronic hepatitis delta virus.
Sovaldi and Harvoni
The drug sofosbuvir had been part of the 2011 acquisition of Pharmasset. In 2013, the FDA approved this drug, under the trade name Sovaldi, as a treatment for the hepatitis C virus. Forbes magazine ranked Gilead its number 4 drug company, citing a market capitalization of US$113 billion and stock appreciation of 100%, and describing their 2011 purchase of Pharmasset for $11 billion as "one of the best pharma acquisitions ever". Deutsche Bank estimated Sovaldi sales in the year's final quarter would be $53 million, and Barron's noted the FDA approval and subsequent strong sales of the "potentially revolutionary" drug as a positive indicator for the stock.
On July 11, 2014, the United States Senate Committee on Finance investigated Sovaldi's high price ($1,000 per pill; $84,000 for the full 12-week regimen). Senators questioned the extent to which the market was operating "efficiently and rationally", and committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and ranking minority member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to CEO John C. Martin asking Gilead to justify the price for this drug. The committee hearings did not result in new law, but in 2014 and 2015, due to negotiated and mandated discounts, Sovaldi was sold well below the list price. For poorer countries, Gilead licensed multiple companies to produce generic versions of Sovaldi; in India, a pill's price was as low as $4.29.
Gilead later combined Sovaldi with other antivirals in single-pill combinations. First, Sovaldi was combined with ledipasvir and marketed as Harvoni. This treatment for hepatitis C cures the patient in 94% to 99% of cases (HCV genotype 1). By 2017, Gilead was reporting drastic drops in Sovaldi revenue from year to year, not only because of pricing pressure but because the number of suitable patients decreased. Later single-pill combinations were Epclusa (with velpatasvir) and Vosevi (with velpatasvir and voxilaprevir).
For the fiscal year 2017, Gilead Sciences reported earnings of US$4.628 billion and annual revenue of US$26.107 billion, a decline of 14.1% over the previous fiscal cycle. Gilead Sciences's shares traded at over $70 per share, and its market capitalization was valued at US$93.4 billion in October 2018.
in mil. USD$
in mil. USD$
in mil. USD$
|Price per share
|2013||11,202||3,075||22,579||51.83||6,000|
|2014||24,890||12,101||34,664||82.82||7,000|
|2015||32,639||18,108||51,716||98.83||8,000|
|2016||30,390||13,501||56,977||78.87||9,000|
|2017||26,107||4,628||70,283||70.13||10,000|
Prospects for the future
As of 2017, Gilead's challenge is to develop or acquire new blockbuster drugs before its current revenue-producers wane or their patent protection expires. Gilead benefited from the expansion of Medicaid in the ACA; Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges wrote that Gilead's HIV drugs could face funding pressure under reform proposals. Gilead has $32 billion in cash, but $27.4 billion is outside the U.S. and is unavailable for acquisitions unless Gilead pays U.S. tax on it, though it could borrow against it. Gilead would benefit from proposals to let companies repatriate offshore capital with minimal further taxation.
On December 26, 2018, The Times reported that Gilead had used the Double Irish arrangement to avoid U.S. corporate taxes on non–U.S. profits, stating that the firm "used a controversial tax loophole arrangement to shift almost €20 billion in profits through an Irish entity in just two years".
TAF development delays
Several class-action lawsuits have been filed against Gilead over allegations that the company deliberately delayed development of antiretroviral drugs based on tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF) in order to maximize profits from previous-generation medications containing tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF). Plaintiffs allege that Gilead suspended TAF in 2004 despite clear evidence indicating that TAF-based medications were safer than TDF, a compound whose long-term use was associated with adverse side effects such as nephrotoxicity and bone density loss. Gilead intentionally withheld results of clinical trials demonstrating TAF's relative safety and efficacy and shelved TAF-based therapies until 2010, when the Food and Drug Administration approved Gilead's application to patent TAF.
Gilead's first TAF medication, marketed under the trade name Genvoya, came out in 2015. In the interim period, many HIV patients who continuously took Gilead's older TDF-based drugs suffered permanent, debilitating kidney and bone damage, often developing conditions such as Fanconi syndrome and osteomalacia.
Gilead came under intense criticism for its high pricing of its patented drug sofosbuvir (sold under the brand name Sovaldi), used to treat hepatitis C. In the US, for instance, it was launched at $1,000 per pill or $84,000 for the standard 84-day course, but it was drastically cheaper in the developing world; in India, it dropped as low as $4.29 per pill. While Sovaldi represented a significant improvement over contemporary treatments, the controversy surrounding its price ignited a national debate in the US, according to Reuters.
The United States Senate Committee on Finance launched an 18-month investigation of Gilead's Sovaldi pricing, and argued in its 2015 report that Gilead set prices high in disregard of the human cost and in order to set the stage for a higher eventual price for Sovaldi's successor, Harvoni. The Committee's investigation, based in part on internal documents obtained from Gilead, revealed that the company had considered prices ranging from $50,000 to $115,000 per year, trying to strike a balance between revenue and predicted activist and public relations blowback, with little regard to research and development costs.
The high prices forced state Medicaid programs to ration treatment to patients, delaying treatment of less advanced hepatitis C cases. In Oregon, for example, 10,000 Medicaid patients were deemed good candidates for Sovaldi therapy, but the Oregon Health Authority estimated that treating half of these patients would more than double the state's total drug expenditures. The state thus opted to limit treatment to 500 patients per year.
Truvada and Descovy
When Truvada was introduced, it costed approximately $1,200 per month in the United States. By 2018, this price had increased to up to $2,000, despite generally costing less than $100 outside the U.S. Gilead made over $3 billion in sales of Truvada in 2018.
The high price drew the ire of activist groups such as ACT UP and was the subject of a Congressional hearing in May 2019. Gilead's CEO defended its pricing in the hearing by noting the large sums the company spends on HIV/AIDS research. The research behind Truvada was primarily funded by the United States government, which filed the original patent.
In May 2019, Gilead announced it would donate enough Truvada to treat up to 200,000 patients annually for up to 11 years, the result of discussions with the Department of Health and Human Services under Trump. Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted that the donations still covered less than one-fifth of the people who need the drug, and argued it was possibly a move to help the company market Descovy, a more advanced successor drug. Walensky lead a 2020 study that concluded the high costs of Descovy would on the whole negate any comparative advantage of prescribing it over a generic Truvada alternative.
In July 2021, Gilead announced it would decrease 340B Drug Pricing Program reimbursements to clinics serving primarily low-income communities; clinics argued this severely hinders their ability to provide HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services among vulnerable populations.
Gilead has also been accused of stifling competition. A lawsuit filed in the United States in 2019 alleged that the company entered "pay for delay" agreements with other manufacturers, wherein the manufacturers agreed to delay releasing generic versions of Truvada. In 2021, CVS Pharmacy and RiteAid filed a lawsuit on similar grounds against Gilead, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Teva Pharmaceuticals in 2021.
In response to criticisms over the price of Sovaldi, Gilead began licensing the rights to produce generic versions of the drug to select producers in India in 2015. Included in the licensing agreements were 'anti-diversion' provisions, designed to prevent the drug from being exported back to developed countries where the cheaper, generic alternatives were still unavailable. (In India, a one-month treatment cost approximately USD $300, versus $1,000 per pill in the United States.) Gilead required the Indian producers to screen patients to determine who could buy Sovaldi, which was criticized by Médecins Sans Frontières since it could lead to the exclusion of vulnerable groups like refugees and migrants from accessing the medicines. In response to the criticism, Gilead eventually relaxed these requirements.
Gilead sought and obtained orphan drug designation for remdesivir from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on March 23, 2020. This designation is intended to encourage the development of drugs affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans by granting strengthened and extended legal monopoly rights to the manufacturer, along with waivers on taxes and government fees. Remdesivir is a candidate for treating COVID-19; at the time the status was granted, fewer than 200,000 Americans had COVID-19, but numbers were climbing rapidly as the COVID-19 pandemic reached the US, and crossing the threshold soon was considered inevitable. Remdesivir was developed by Gilead with over $79 million in U.S. government funding. After facing strong reactions, Gilead gave up the "orphan drug" status for remdesivir on March 25. Gilead retains 20-year remdesivir patents in more than 70 countries.
Remdesivir for treatment of patients with COVID-19
Emergency use authorization for remdesivir was granted in the U.S. on 1 May, for people hospitalized with severe COVID-19.
In June 2020, Gilead announced that the price of remdesivir is set at US$390 per vial for governments of developed countries including the United States and US$520 for private insurance companies in the US. The expected course of treatment is six vials over five days for a total cost of US$2,340.
In September 2020 following a review of the evidence, the WHO issued guidance not to use remdesivir for people with COVID-19, as there was no good evidence of benefit.
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