Shares of Acorda Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOR) skyrocketed 50 percent in morning trading Thursday to a high of $26 from Wednesday’s closing price of $16.74 after analysts said a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel review of the company’s multiple sclerosis drug paved the way for approval by next year. Acorda Therapeutics Inc. topped the list of Biggest Percentage Price Gainers among common stocks on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
An Advisory Committee panel announced today that they would stand behind Acorda’s drug candidate Fampridine-SR, a multiple sclerosis drug geared to help mobility in patients. The announcement today came in sharp contrast to a more negative review by FDA staff a few days earlier that sent the company’s shares down sharply, analysts said.
“In my view, the briefing documents were a total red herring to investors, most of whom sold positions heavily,” said Hapoalim Securities analyst Raghuram Selvaraju. “This morning, what you’re seeing is the about-face that I would have expected.”
The FDA will decide on October 22 whether the drug will be approved. An unaffiliated panel of experts voted 12-1 in favor of the drug, and concluded that fampridine was both safe and effective, but recommended it not be used in patients with known seizure problems. Additionally, the experts recommended lower doses be studied in clinical trials, which could be done after FDA approval. Some analysts predicted approval could be delayed until early 2010 to prepare a program to manage fampridine’s risks.
Ron Cohen, M.D., Acorda Therapeutics President and CEO said in a statement Thursday, “We are pleased with the outcome of today’s Advisory Committee meeting. People with MS have an urgent need for therapies to improve their walking, which is essential to conducting their activities of daily life. If approved, Fampridine-SR would be the first medicine to improve walking in people with MS.”
Analyst Raghuram Selvaraju projects annual sales of fampridine reaching $900 million by 2017, putting it near the $1 billion threshold for a drug to be deemed a blockbuster. The 50 percent surge in share prices Thursday launched Acorda Therapeutics to a market value of nearly $1 billion, which combined with the earnings potential of fampridine, makes Acorda a possible acquisition candidate.
Aside from Biogen Idec (BIIB.O), which holds fampridine rights outside the United States, analysts predict other pharmaceutical companies with multiple sclerosis programs might be interested in acquiring Acorda, including: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA.TA), Novartis (NOVN.VX), Merck KGaA (MRCG.DE) and Sanofi Aventis (SASY.PA), which is developing a drug that is similar to fampridine, but further behind in development.
Selvaraju continues, “I think they’re an extremely eminent takeover target, I think any company that either has a foothold in the MS space or wants to have one should be very interested in this company.”
Acorda Therapeutics does not comment on speculation regarding possible acquisitions.