Balm for Gilead

Shares of Personal Finance Growth Portfolio holding Gilead Sciences (GILD) dropped nearly 9% in early trading on Tuesday after the company released its third quarter earnings report that fell short of last year’s results. Quarterly revenue of $7.8 billion this year was less than last year’s sales of $8.2 billion, as was net income of $3.5 billion compared to $4.5 billion in 2015.

Until recently, Gilead could do no wrong. From June 2012 to June 2015 Gilead’s share price shot up nearly five-fold as “big pharma” replaced “new tech” as Wall Street’s favorite momentum play. But recent concerns over price-gouging and the high-profile implosion of Valeant Pharmaceuticals have thrown a bucket of cold water on this once red-hot sector.

In Gilead’s case, revenue from its HCV (Hepatitis-C Virus) drug complex is on the wane and management projects it will continue to decline into next year. That’s a problem because HCV drugs accounted for more than half of its total sales during the past twelve months, with HIV products generating about a third of its revenue. Even though its sales for HIV treatments have been growing, the rate of growth is not enough to make up for the decline in HCV sales.

However, Gilead is sitting on a pile of money: $24.6 billion to be exact. The company spent $10 billion to repurchase stock during the first half of this year, but with its share price still dropping perhaps it’s time for Gilead to  use that money to make an aggressive move into the cancer immunotherapy field. It could do that quickly by buying one of the small R&D companies that could win FDA approval for a promising treatment within the next year.

With the U.S. presidential election fast approaching, Gilead (and most of the other big pharma companies) should be prepared for a new White House occupant who could crack down on our high drug prices. It may be too late for Gilead to revamp its product lineup for 2017, but it could quickly spend a few billion dollars to buy what may turn out to be the next big thing in cancer treatment.

During the past year cancer immunotherapy has enjoyed heightened interest due to the miraculous recovery by Jimmy Carter from lung and brain cancer after undergoing an experimental form of treatment. That was followed by a high profile investment of $250 million by tech venture capitalist Sean Parker into this type of treatment. Cutting edge work in this field is being performed by relatively small labs using trial studies, but it shouldn’t be long until the FDA starts granting approval for its widespread use in hospitals and cancer treatment centers across the country.

We do not include small-cap biotech stocks in the Personal Finance coverage universe, but we do recommend three such companies in our sister publication, Breakthrough Tech Profits, in large part due to the expertise of Dr. Joe Duarte, a practicing physician and our resident biotech expert. Dr. Duarte would be the first one to tell you that these type of stocks are risky, so it is safer to own several of them rather than rolling the dice with only one. Our guess is it won’t be long until some of the big pharma companies start buying up them up, and Gilead Sciences should be one of the first to make a move.