14. Gilead Sciences

Gilead remained in control of the HIV market in 2020 behind powerhouse Biktarvy. HIV drugs accounted for 69% of the revenue for the California-based company.

Gilead Sciences
2020 revenue
: $24.69 billion
2019 revenue: $22.45 billion
Headquarters: Foster City, California

A precipitous slide from a company-record $32.6 billion in sales in 2015 alarmed Gilead Sciences and its investors for years. But 2020 brought a long-awaited reversal of fortune.

Gilead’s revenue figure of $24.69 last year represented a 10% increase from 2019, suggesting that the company’s free fall finally might be in the rear-view mirror, at least for now.

Why just the short term? Much of last year’s surge can be attributed to the sudden success of COVID-19 drug Veklury. While many other companies have shot blanks during the pandemic, Gilead hit the bullseye with a treatment originally designed to combat hepatitis C. 

The drug withstood a thumbs down from the World Health Organization to post $2.8 billion in sales, including $1.9 in the fourth quarter.

In a volatile environment, with companies scrambling to develop pandemic potions, it’s anyone’s guess how long Veklury’s success will last.   

While Gilead’s good fortune with the drug was unexpected, there was no surprise about the performance of its HIV meds. Fending off a challenge from GlaxoSmithKline, Gilead has remained in command of the HIV market as blockbuster Biktarvy rang up sales of $7.3 billion, a 53% increase over its figure of 2019.

Due in part to the dominance of Biktarvy, some of the company’s other HIV treatments posted sales declines, including Genvoya ($3.3 billion) and Gilead’s variety of Truvada-based products ($2.3 billion) which faced new generic competition. But Descovy ($1.9 billion) and Odefsey ($1.7 billion) posted increases and carry the potential for more growth.

It all added up to $16.9 billion in sales for Gilead’s HIV collection, which represented 69% of the company’s overall revenue.

RELATED: Gilead sees a blockbuster 2021 for COVID-19 drug Veklury but can grow without it: CEO

Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, Gilead’s hep C sales dropped 30% to $2.1 billion, reflecting a trend several years in the making for those meds.

So where does the company go from here? In a word: oncology. Gilead has made past attempts to diversify into the development of cancer drugs, but now it's all in. 

CEO Daniel O'Day, who took over in March 2019, arrived from oncology giant Roche. O'Day hired oncology veterans Johana Mercier, formerly at Bristol Myers Squibb, as new CFO, and Christi Shaw, formerly at Eli Lilly, to take over Gilead’s subsidiary Kite Pharma. Kite, a 2017 buyout, is a pioneer in cell therapy that has so far failed to live up to original expectations.

In 2020, Gilead took the plunge in earnest with more than $27 billion in investments in biotechs, small and large. A $21 billion acquisition of Immunomedics represented pharma’s second-largest M&A deal last year and brought promising breast cancer drug Trodelvy. A $4.9 billion purchase of Forty Seven fetched blood cancer antibody treatment magrolimab, due to launch next year.    

RELATED: Gilead splashes out $21B for Immunomedics, keeping the pedal on new target weeks after AZ-Daiichi deal

Gilead is said to have overpaid for a few of these ventures. For the company to return to its salad days in the middle of the last decade, some of these risky deals will have to bear fruit.

The company has its doubters. Gilead’s stock price declined in the second half of 2020. When the year was over, its market cap had fallen by 11%.

14. Gilead Sciences