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Gilead's President Spoke At Goldman Sachs' Global Healthcare Conference This Week: Here Are The Highlights

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Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) President and COO John Milligan spoke to investors at Goldman Sachs' annual Global Healthcare Conference on Tuesday.

He addressed the biotech company's growth, drug portfolio, and future prospects.

A Good Year

Milligan discussed how Gilead's greatly expanded financial resources have allowed the company to pursue a multitude of projects. He said that the firm, which doubled revenues last year, has been able to pursue accelerated investment in R&D, share buybacks, and a dividend initiation all at once.

Milligan believes that the increase Gilead has seen in cash flows will be permanent and will allow the company to continue to spread its resources across a variety of fronts.

Related Link: Highlights From ISIS Pharmaceuticals At Goldman Sachs Healthcare Conference

He was also confident that the biotech firm's drug portfolio would continue to grow, announcing that Gilead currently has more treatments in phase II and phase III testing than ever before.

Milligan also noted the company's enlarged payroll, which added 1,000 new employees over the past year. According to him, most of the new hires were in clinical operations and development operations. Given that Gilead typically operates at one-fourth to one-eighth of the workforce of big pharmaceutical companies, the president thought that the addition of so many new employees was a very good sign.

The challenge moving forward, in his eyes, will be managing the company's growth—in terms of employment and revenue—responsibly and efficiently.

Hep C

Milligan spent a large portion of the presentation discussing Gilead's flagship line of Hepatitis C treatments, with Sovaldi and Harvoni both being industry leaders.

The exec was very enthusiastic about the Hep C franchise's success in the United States. According to him, Gilead drugs treated 140,000 patients last year and had already been administered to 70,000 patients in the first quarter of 2015, meaning that the company is set to double its domestic market penetration from 2014.

In addition, Gilead has added an additional 1,000 American family practice doctors prescribing their medications. Although specialists still constitute the vast majority of Gilead's prescribing physicians, Milligan was optimistic about the role that family practitioners could play for the company in the future.

Internationally, Milligan still sees a plethora of untapped opportunities.

Sovaldi, he said, is now available in all European countries, while Harvoni is on track to be approved in Italy, France, and Spain. The newer drug should replace Sovaldi in the markets where it's approved. He was particularly excited about potential in Italy, where there are currently a million untreated HCV patients.

Milligan also mentioned that European governments have fostered a political commitment to increasing treatment of patients with Hep C and other diseases, allocating funding toward improved drug access. Nevertheless, he maintained, even with full government support, it would take at least 20 years to treat all European Hep C patients. "This is definitely more of a long term thing."

HIV

Milligan took some time to discuss Gilead's foray into HIV treatment. He highlighted its new drug, ECF TAF, in which the key component is the TAF nucleotide.

The new drug, he said, has fewer negative implications for bone and renal parameters than competitors. According to Milligan, this feature is increasingly important as patients age—given that the median age of HIV patients is 55, it's likely an important distinction.

ECF TAF also only has to be taken in one dose yet is still highly potent. Normally, HIV treatments have to be administered via multiple pills.

Milligan said that Gilead plans to release studies this year of people who switched from other treatment methods to ECF TAF.

The drug is slated for release this November.

New Horizons?

When asked about adding a third leg to Gilead's portfolio (beyond Hep C and HIV), Milligan kept his options open. He noted cancer and inflammatory diseases as areas of future exploration, but also made clear that the company still lacked a cornerstone molecule for the treatment of either category of ailment.

Milligan said that such a molecule could be acquired through M&A activity but didn't announce any concrete plans.

On Thursday, Gilead shares are up 1.7 percent, and have trended upward to near $120 share in 2015 thus far. The stock began the year in the $94 range.

Posted-In: Gilead Sciences John F. Milligan John MilliganBiotech News Management Events General

 

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