March 15 (Reuters) - Gilead Sciences Inc and rival Merck & Co Inc said on Monday they will test a combination of their experimental HIV drugs to develop a long-acting treatment for the infection that affects millions worldwide.
As part of the non-exclusive agreement, the companies hope to develop a therapy that allows for less frequent dosing, compared to the current once-daily treatments available to HIV patients.
The agreement also takes on rival treatments by GlaxoSmithKline's unit ViiV Healthcare, which recently filed an application to expand the use of its HIV drug Cabenuva to include dosing every two months.
"The market will infer that GSK and ViiV are left out in the cold here, supporting our long-standing concerns over the longer term outlook for GSK's HIV franchise," Citi analyst Andrew Baum said.
Gilead and Merck will share global development and commercialization costs 60% and 40%, respectively, while having an equal share of the therapy's sales until the revenue crosses certain milestones.
The companies will share equal profit until annual sales of the therapy's oral version hit $2 billion and the injectable version's sales reach $3.5 billion, following which the revenue will be split 65% for Gilead and 35% for Merck.
1.7 million new HIV infections were reported globally in 2019 and 38 million people were living with HIV, according to the World Health Organization.
Gilead's shares rose 1.3% to $62.30, while Merck was up nearly 2% at $76.08.
(Reporting By Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)