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PREAMBLE This not a news or some insider data’s, it is only an analytic view of the market, strengths in presence and logical projections. Notice that I am neither a physician nor a biologist, my point of view is only that of an enlightened amateur, so it must be taken for what it is, a questionable point of view!

What could be GILEAD’s futures strategies in NASH

To date,  GILEAD have officially three programs in NASH :

  • The GS9674 (ex 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, 2023.

  •  The SELONSERTIB (GS4997) is a ASKI (Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase (ACC) inhibitor ) that was 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.  

A Phase 3 ist ongoing and GILEAD managed to fulfill their recruitment in a very short time.

Access to market possible if all goes well, 2020.

  • The GS0976  ex 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, 2023.

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, SELONSERTIB phase  2 results were encouraging but based mainly on imagery and only 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 one or two years after their competitors except with a drug targeting  fibrosis induced by NASH (SELONSERTIB). 

As they will not have a metabolic (backbone)  treatment of the disease on the market before years but only a drug targeting fibrosis  , they’ll not able to cover the large spectrum of the disease. Regarding this configuration, it is difficult to claim the leadership in NASH.

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, if you examine the following list

 these are few leading the race :

  • ALLERGAN and CENICRIVIROC (not available for sale) 
  • GALECTIN and GR-MD-02 (missed the NASH trial, expecting better results on cirrhosis Ph2b)
  • BRISTOL MYERS SQUIBB and BMS 986036 (not available for sale as far i know) 
  • CONATUS and EMRICASAN (not available for sale because of Novartis deal) 
  • MADRIGAL and MGL-3196 presented quite good histological data

The ideal deal would be to complete the expected action of the most advanced drug in their pipeline (SELONSERTIB) on cirrhosis and fibrosis by a molecule that treat metabolic NASH to offer a combination covering the spectrum of disease (read here why).

To my previous opinion GILEAD could exclude molecules targeting only fibrosis and cirrhosis, maybe covered by the SELONSERTIB 

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

So the most advanced drugs still available to buy are: OCALIVA, ELAFIBRANORARAMCHOL and now MGL-3196 !


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 was late in its recruitment  (I explain why here) , to accelerate and take the lead they took the risk to reduce the inital number of patients needed for intermediate results  from 1400 to 750 and declared closing the recruitment of those 750 firsts patients  in july 2017,  it mean intermediate results at the beginning of 2019 and a possible agreement and access to the market at the beginning of 2020.

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.

The last Trial ‘CONTROL’ confirmed the serious adverse effects of the drug, pruritus affected 55% of patients and LDL level increase vas also confirmed.

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

Regarding the FDA last safety communication on OCALIVA it is not sure that GILEAD could take the risk to pay for OCALIVA.


ELAFIBRANOR seems the dreamed complement for SELONSERTIB, 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 spring 2018. It mean intermediate results at end  2019 and a possible agreement and access to the market at the end of 2020.

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 maybe $ 10 billion.

It remains the option of an hostile takeover  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.

They could choose to wait for the Ph3 intermediatre results, but then, with positives results, the drug could become priceless !


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  closed its recruitment lately and maybe could’nt be the way for GILEAD to be present as the first on the NASH  market.


MGL3196 got histological confirmation of the published encouraging data’s on liver fat. As confirmed, MADRIGAL’s compound would be an interesting option, predicted drug action remains complementary to  simtuzumab.

But MADRIGAL valuation is very high now  regarding the facts that MGL3196 is only finishing phase 2


A few month ago, 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.  But more recently they smoothly adapted the message, NASH could be a target field for acquisition.

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 poor and 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 ARAMCHOL and  MGL-3196GALMED or MADRIGAL  could be good targets for GILEAD but they will have to wait for  trial results in 2018 to be sure. and they will not solve their problem regarding late acces to the market.

ELAFIBRANOR or OCA could be well installed as they'll reach the market.

The SELONSERTIB future results may be disappointing, in that case, GILEAD's strategy in NASH could become a mess.

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

The detailled lists of compounds targeting NASH is here 

G Divry 2018

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