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Gilead Surges After Offering Experimental Coronavirus Drug for Testing in China

Gilead Sciences said its working with health authorities in China to test an experimental drug that could treat patients infected with the coronavirus.

Gilead Sciences Inc.  (GILD) - Get Free Report shares traded sharply higher Monday after the drugmaker said it's working with China to study the effectiveness of an experimental Ebola treatment on patients infected with the coronavirus.

China's National Health Commission has confirmed 361 deaths linked to the respiratory-focused virus, which was first identified earlier this year and thought to have passed from animals to humans at an illegal wildlife market in the central industrial city of Wuhan. 

Some 17,000 people are thought to have been infected, authorities estimate, and some 40 million people remain subject to travel restrictions and quarantine as the government scrambles to arrest the spread of the deadly disease across the world's third largest economy. 

"Gilead is working with health authorities in China to establish a randomized, controlled trial to determine whether remdesivir can safely and effectively be used to treat 2019-nCoV. We are also expediting appropriate laboratory testing of remdesivir against 2019-nCoV samples," the company said in a statement late Friday. "While there are no antiviral data for remdesivir that show activity against 2019-nCoV at this time, available data in other coronaviruses give us hope."

Gilead shares were marked 6% higher in early trading Monday to  change hands at $66.90 each.

There is some evidence -- although data is extremely limited -- that Gilead's remdesivir could have at least some success in treating coronavirus patients. U.S. doctors treating the first domestic case of the disease used the treatment, which has not yet been approved by any medical authority in the world, on what the New England Journal of Medicine described as "compassionate" grounds late last week, only to see the patient's pneumonia-like symptoms subsequently improve.

"Although a decision to administer remdesivir for compassionate use was based on the case patient’s worsening clinical status, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of remdesivir and any other investigational agents for treatment of patients with 2019-nCoV infection," the study indicated.