I recently wrote an article about a new experimental drug Gilead was working on that could end up becoming a way to cure HIV. However, when writing the post, I focused more on the market, rather than the virus and it’s cure; which caused a bit of confusion (I noticed from emails I received). So today, I figured it would be best to focus more on the medical side of the equation to explain that Gilead Sciences truly may have found a way to cure HIV.
Before the early 2000s, the mortality rate of HIV was incredibly high. However, in the early 2000s cocktails of new medications have increased the survival rate among those with the virus. These medications cause the virus to go into more of a hibernation state if taken regularly; giving patients who have contracted HIV a way to live relatively normal lives.
While there has been quite a bit of work and research put into curing patients that suffer from HIV, the attempts have proven to be futile with the exception of the few and far between high profile cases. The big problem is simple…
In HIV patients, some cells that carry the virus can remain hidden because they rarely express any viral gene products.
This means that targeting the hepatitis I virus has been nearly impossible as cells that don’t show signs can’t be targeted. Unfortunately, these are the same cells that have a tendency to reinfect patients after treatment. So, considering that HIV can hide, researchers have been searching for ways to essentially bring the infected cells out of hiding; which will allow them to be targeted by effective pharmaceutical compounds. The biggest problem here is that few compounds are believed to be strong enough to cause all latent virus-containing cells to become active simultaneously. However, it seems that Gilead may have found one!
Gilead Sciences Stumbles Upon A Way To Activate Virus-Containing Cells
Gilead Sciences has been working on GS-9620; which is an oral toll-like receptor-7 antagonist that’s currently being studied for the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis B. However, the application of the compound may do something that Gilead didn’t expect. Essentially, the compound may be strong enough to activate all latent cells.
Through testing of the compound, GILD found that it has a very unique ability to activate multiple aspects of the immune system. So, the company decided to do a few preliminary tests to see if it would be strong enough to activate latent HIV-carrying cells.
In two preclinical studies, Gilead Sciences has proven the concept. Using human cells as well as non-human primates, the company found that the compound significantly increases the amount of detectable virus in HIV patients. This means that the compound has been proven to have the ability to activate latent carriers of HIV.
Perhaps more importantly, the viral load actually dropped in the studies. This means that while a larger percentage of infected cells can be detected, other medications being administered along with the GS-9620 compound are still working with regard to effectively killing the virus.
There’s Still Plenty Of Testing That Needs To Be Done
Don’t get me wrong, the cure isn’t here yet. However, this is a very crucial step in finding a cure for HIV! While we won’t expect the cure to emerge any time soon; it is important to note that this is a major breakthrough in the HIV world!
What This Could Mean For GILD Stock
Now, let’s get back to the stock market for a spell. Gilead Sciences investors have been so hung up on the HCV battle that they haven’t been talking as much about GILD’s involvement in the HIV world. The reality is that Gilead Sciences is already a key player in HIV; and with this new discovery, their position could be even stronger in the years to come. In my opinion, this is definitely good news for long-term stock holders!