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Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences, is an antiviral medicine that was initially created to treat Ebola. It didn’t work for Ebola, but several recent trials have found the drug produces positive results in coronavirus patients.
The FDA’s emergency approval allows patients with “severe” cases of COVID-19 -- those with low blood oxygen levels or who need ventilator support -- to receive remdesivir.
However, Gilead’s work expands far beyond the coronavirus.
Here’s what else you need to know about the biopharmaceutical company.
When was Gilead founded?
Michael Riordan founded a company called Oligogen in 1987 but changed the name to Gilead in 1988, according to a timeline on the company’s website.
Though it is unclear where the original name came from, the word oligogene means “a gene that produces or significantly affects the expression of a qualitative heritable characteristic, acting either alone or with a few other genes,” according to Dictionary.com.
According to The Motley Fool, the name Gilead was “inspired by the balm of Gilead, an ancient medicine.”
Gilead’s headquarters is in Foster City, California.
What does Gilead do?
Gilead is a research-based company with a focus on “developing innovative medicines for life-threatening illnesses” that don’t already have cures, according to the website.
The company has a long list of medications for illnesses including HIV/AIDS, liver diseases, hematology and oncology, cardiovascular diseases and inflammation and respiratory illnesses.
Some of its drugs include Tamiflu, Truvada and Viread, the website said.
Gilead got its first FDA approval in 1996 for the medication Vistide, which treats an eye infection common among people living with HIV, according to the company timeline.
How much money does Gilead make?
According to The Motley Fool, Gilead wasn’t profitable for its first 14 years. When it finally did become profitable in 2001, it reported net income of $52.3 million with total revenue of $233.8 million, the website reported.
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More recently, Gilead’s total revenue was $22.2 billion as of May 2019, according to the company’s Forbes profile. From that revenue, the company’s profits were $5.5 billion.
How much will Gilead’s coronavirus treatment cost?
Gilead has said it plans to donate 1.5 million doses of remdesivir. That amount could treat more than 140,000 people.
The company is also working to rapidly scale up production and supply of the drug, aiming to produce at least 500,000, 10-day treatment courses by October. Gilead hopes to produce 1 million courses by December and millions more in 2021.
After the initial donation of 1.5 million doses, it is unclear how much the drug will cost. According to Politico, Gilead could charge $390 or more for remdesivir -- with high estimates ranging between $5,000 and $10,000.