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Acorda Tackles Multiple Sclerosis

A Corda Therapeutics (ACOR) isn't your typical biotech. Even before its public debut in early 2006, the company had a commercial product. Zanaflex treats spasticity or muscular spasm, a condition associated with multiple sclerosis. Acorda's newer product is Fampridine-sr, which alleviates walking disabilities caused by MS. Shares of Acorda have been on a tear since Fampridine's first phase III trials yielded "strong data," says Phil Nadeau of securities firm Cowen (COWN). The patients involved showed "consistent improvement in walking speed," he says. About half of all MS patients will need help in walking within 15 years of their diagnosis, says Nadeau, who rates the stock "outperform." He expects Fampridine to be on the market by 2009, with $120 million sales in 2011. The drug will undergo a second phase III trial this spring. Results of the first phase III will be released at the May 2 meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. That may fire up the stock again as more details about the trials become known. Caroline Stewart of Piper Jaffray (PJC) rates Acorda, now at 18.69, a buy, with a 12-month target of 30. She estimates the market for Fampridine at $450 million a year and for Zanaflex at $35 million.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.

By Gene G. Marcial

Illustration: Chart: OFF WITH A WHOOSH


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