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UPDATE (the 6th of november, 2016)

To date,  GILEAD have officially three programs in NASH :

  • The simtuzumab programm was halted

  • The Px104 is a FXR agonist as is the OCA from INTERCEPT which was originally developed by Phenex  before its acquisition by Gilead, this compound is currently in phase 2a clinical study. Access to market possible if all goes well, 2025.

  •  The GS4997 is a ASKI (Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase (ACC) inhibitor )that is currently being tested in phase 2a alone or in combination with simtuzumab, it demonstrated in mices a reduction of steatosis, fibrosis and inflamation of the markers liver.  The 20 of October 2016 , GILEAD released first data's on the trial results. The trial was enrolling 72 patients in 5 arms, so the arms were including only a few patients ( 20 to 10 ), it is typically a 2a Study, the Primary Outcome Measures were

Adverse event profile of GS-4997 [ Time Frame: Up to 28 weeks ] 

Reported adverse events will include:

  • Incidence of treatment-emergent serious adverse events
  • Incidence of worsening of treatment-emergent liver laboratory abnormalities for alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), defined as at least 1 toxicity grade increase from baseline

Percentage of participants who prematurely discontinued study drug or study due to adverse events

The results announced show a good  efficacy on fibrosis of  GS4997  but we should stay cautious because of  the very small number of patients included in the trial  regarding the great variability of hepatic biopsy readings and the absence of a placebo arm.  

No information was released  on infllamation, balloning or steatosis ?

Access to market possible if all goes well, 2025.

  • The NDI-010976 is an ACC inhibitor (apoptosis signal-regulating kinase inhibitor) which was originally developed by NIMBUS  before the acquisition by Gilead of their Apollo program . The drug just started a Phase 2a clinical study .  It have the potential to prevent production of new lipids within the liver and stimulate their breakdown. In animal models of fatty liver, ACC inhibition reduces hepatic fat content, inflammation and fibrosis (scarring), all of which are important hallmarks of NASH progression.  A  report revealed by Bloomberg explained that the half life of the NIMBUS drug is very short and do not exceed 10H for the highest doses, which could imply multiple doses per day for the treatment, and concluded that it is not a good configuration  for a market agreement by the agencies. Access to market possible if all goes well, 2026.

One can notice that the first treatment that Gilead could have bring to the market was simtuzumab  but as the programm is halted now , GILEAD lost its main program in NASH

Moreover the only results available  NDI-010976 are preclinical or only based on serologic markers and are far from being confirmed by histology, GS4997 results were encouraging but based mainly on imagery andonly 70% of the patients got end of trial biopsies, the number of patients was very small and there were no placebo arm.

In addition, the PX104 is a FXR agonist which by definition chould have some same side effects as the OCA (LDL increase), that is to say an increase in LDL cholesterol which could pose a similar problem as OCA of  INTERCEPT in terms of cardiovascular profile worsening. The first clinical study ended to date on Px104  is a NCT01999101 study on only 12 patients measuring only metabolic markers and steatosis via MRI. The results of this study have not been disclosed.

GILEAD who has announced plans to be a leader in the NASH is far from its goal with its current programs.  

As they halted their admiral program, in the best projections, and if everything goes well, they could reach the market two years after their competitors with a drug targeting  fibrosis induced by NASH (GS4997). 

The strategy develloped by GILEAD seems curious to observers. Why do they acquire preclinical NASH program when it is obvious that they need to come back on  competitors ?

To my opinion, they have a long term vision of the market and are betting on the most profitable strategy, the ability to propose different therapy compounds targeting each segments of the market and allowing them to adjust the prices of each compound to its best. 

For that, they need a panel of drugs acting on differents mechanisms of the disease, in a way to combine the drugs in different compounds they can sell independently at differents prices. The best way to develop this strategy is to acquire a maximum of drugs in their early developpment and to launch clinical studies on bi or tri therapies.

Nevertheless, the primary objective is now to occupy the ground quickly, GILEAD therefore should now target one of the most advanced drug in the pipe to get the chance to be the first on the market.

But these are few:


The ideal would be to complete the expected action of the most advanced drug in their pipeline (the simtuzumab) on Cirrhosis by a molecule that treatNASH to offer a combination covering the spectrum of disease (read here why).

To my previous opinion GILEAD could exclude molecules targeting  fibrosis and cirrhosis, maybe covered by the GD4997 : like EMRICASAN (CONATUS).

Again, the anti fibrotic promising results of GS4997 if they are confirmed in a bigger trial could be a solution for GILEAD but time is missing to put the GS4997 on the market before the the competitors .



The OCA is in the same family as Px104 (FXR agonist) who claims to be more powerful with fewer side effects (this remains to be proven). 

The OCA is one of the most advanced in NASH clinical studies but conversely, bet on a second FXR agonist while recent studies have cast doubt on its ability to treat NASH could be risked. To complete INTERCEPT now focuses its communication on NASH induced advanced fibrosis (and by extension Cirrhosis) and not on the metabolic disorders so it does not seem consistent strategically for GILEAD.

The REGENERATE Phase III study seems to be late in its recruitment and to my opinion (I explain why here) , they cannot expect to finish the recruitment of the first 1400 patients needed for the subpart H accelerated agreement before the end of 2016 beginning of 2017. it mean intermediate results at the end of  2018 and a possible agreement and access to the market at the end of 2019, more likely at the beginning of 2020. 

Analysts who still announce for OCA an access to the NASH market in 2017 have not studied the matter seriously and disseminate false facts to their readers.

Moreover, INTERCEPT got an accelerated agrement for OCA in PBC, but the full release of the PBC studies revealed some liver adverse effets in OCA higher doses wich conduct FDA to propose a limitation of OCA doses at 10mg/day. 

Regarding the studies on NASH, this dose seems too low to impact the NASH disease, the publication of the JAPAN study is clear, no any effect at 10 mg/day is notable, similar as placebo.. The analysts have not yet mesured the implications of OCA dose limitation in the PBC on the future NASH agreement  but it will come.

Nevertheless INTERCEPT seems to try to sell itself and the ticket may not exceed $ 10 billion. GILEAD could take the risk.


ELAFIBRANOR seems the dreamed complement for simtuzumab, the GOLDEN phase 2b studies now prove its strong action on NASH and on the main components of the metabolic syndrome. the drug is now the most advanced in clinical studies and is likely to be the first treatment that will access the market. 

The RESOLV IT Phase III study already started its recruitment and plan to finish the recruitment of the first 1000 patients needed for the subpart H accelareted agreement before the mid 2017. It mean intermediate results at end  2018 and a possible agreement and access to the market at the end of 2019.

ELAFIBRANOR is a perfect complementary to a treatment targeting advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis. 

To date, GENFIT, at less than 1b$,  is clearly underevaluated , however GENFIT knows very well the value of the gold nugget that have in their hands with ELAFIBRANOR. They are not for sale !  except maybe for a very substantial offer that could exceed $ 10 billion.

It remains the option of an hostile takeover (the suspect control of the share price on low levels during the last months could be maybe a sign of upcoming maneuver), but it could imply to pay more than the required price because other laboratories seems also very interested in GENFIT and an hostile takeover would generate an expensive battle on the price offering. 

Nevertheless ELAFIBRANOR  is the most advanced compound on NASH treatment with a good safety and no noticable adverse effects, if GILEAD  are ready to put  more than $ 10 billion on the table to buy GENFIT,  it probably worth the gamble to be the first on the market. The alternative is a licence deal with GENFIT or a co development  deal as they have done with GALAPAGOS.


the ARAMCHOL is an interesting option, the main drug target is the steatosis and although no study to date shows direct action on inflammation and ballooning, predicted drug action remains complementary to that of simtuzumab.

In the absence of studies based on histological results,  it would seems prudent to wait for the results of their Phase 2b which should be available only in  2018.

This means that they could not plan an access on the market before 2022- 2023 wich is  two years late on GENFIT and INTERCEPT, and maybe late for GILEAD  

However, as the valuation of GALMED is low ($ 65 million) and through a substantial premium, the cost of an acquisition would be pocket money and GILEAD could take the risk of acquiring the anticipated manner of the program as they have done for the Px104  and the NDI-010976

Nevertheless ARAMCHOL  is now late in its phase 2 recruitment and maybe could’nt be the way for GILEAD to be present as the first on the NASH  market.


Recently, GILEAD announced in an interview that they do no plan anymore an acquisition in NASH, they argued that they have enough drugs in development  to provide combo on this market. 

Indubitably, GILEAD, with 3 programs left, is still one of the most  involved companies in the future treatment of NASH but, to my opinion, their pipeline is late on main competitors and as they can not claim to take over this market without comprehensive coverage of all disease components, they also have to plan a clever schedule to try to be one of the first on this market.

So, GILEAD M&A in NASH are halted but events can change that.

if good results are confirmed for ARAMCHOLGALMED could be a low cost target for GILEAD but they will have to wait for the ARAMCHOL trial results in 2018.

The GS4997 future results may be disappointing,  in that case, keep a eye on CONATUS.

Otherwise partnership could be the way,  the most logical and promising partnership on the core NASH market would be GENFIT but they’ll have to pay the good price, and the price increase day after day !

To complete this article you should read 


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