Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.29%) received a vote of confidence from the World Health Organization on Monday when a WHO official said that its experimental COVID-1) drug shows great potential.

Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, went on to say during a Beijing briefing that remdesivir seems to be the "one drug right now that we think may have efficacy." Shares of Gilead shot up by as much as 6.9% following the briefing.

Microscopic depiction of coronavirus cells floating around.

Image source: Getty Images.

Remdesivir was originally developed to be an Ebola vaccine, but it proved less effective than was hoped against that disease. However, back in January, one COVID-19 patient who received remdesivir on a compassionate use basis saw a substantial improvement in symptoms. Since then, the Chinese government has started human trials with remdesivir, with WHO stating that clinical results would be available within weeks.

Analyst expectations

Although the COVID-19 epidemic is becoming a major worldwide issue, developing a treatment for it might not be all that lucrative. Geoff Meacham, an analyst at Bank of America, has said that remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment would have little long-term impact to Gilead's bottom line, at best bringing in $2.5 billion in one-time revenue for the biotech giant.

There are 79,737 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, with 2,628 deaths. While the virus' spread within China seems to have slowed down, other countries have seen a surge in cases. Italy reported another 66 cases of the coronavirus Monday, news that sent European stock markets into a panic.