The search for a hepatitis C cure is one of the most active areas within biotechnology research and development.
One of the company's ushering in the next generation of hepatitis C treatment is Gilead Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GILD). The company acquired hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir in its $11.2 billion acquisition of Pharmasset back in January 2012.
Sonosbuvir has a very good chance of beating rival drugs to the market. Those competing drugs are being developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX), Merck (NYSE: MRK) and AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), the drug manufacturing giant that split off from Abbott Labs last winter.
Gilead's hopes for first-to-market approval.
In April, Gilead reported strong Phase 3 trial data. Those positive results for sonosbuvir as a combination therapy with ribavirin for genotype 2 and 3 hepatitis C patients prompted Gilead to file for FDA approval. The filing also seeks approval for sonosbuvir combined with ribavirin and interferon for genotype 1 -- the most common variant of the disease. The FDA granted Gilead's application priority review in June.
However, the holy grail of Hepatitis C treatment is an interferon free oral treatment alternative.
Developing such a solution will likely grab significant share in the $20 billion hepatitis C treatment market because interferon comes with significant side effects and current non-oral treatments require injections, which many patients dread.
As a result of the opportunity, Gilead is studying 12 and 24 week dosing of oral sonosbuvir without interferon through its Ion 1 and Ion 2 trials.