Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc. common stock has risen 99percent in the past two trading sessions, based on investorenthusiasm for research that will take two more years to bringto clinical trial.
The stock (NASDAQ:AGPH) closed at $20.38 on Monday aftertrading as high as $24. More than 892,000 shares were traded,compared with the company's normal trading volume of 4,000shares.
On Friday, the company reported in the journal Science that ithad determined the three-dimensional structure of reversetranscriptase (RT), an enzyme critical for replicating the AIDSvirus HIV-1. RT converts the single-stranded HIV RNA genomeinto a double-stranded DNA molecule that inserts itself into apatient's DNA and produces copies of the virus.
Agouron is using the RT structure to identify small moleculesthat inhibit activity of RT. The company hopes to have aproduct derived from this research in clinical trials in twoyears, said Donna Nichols, an Agouron spokeswoman.
Agouron, based in La Jolla, Calif., closed at $10.25 last Thursdayand sold as low as $6.50 on Dec. 31.
"We've said for some time that the full value of the companywasn't reflected in the stock price," said Nichols. Even at thisprice the company still considers its stock undervalued, shesaid.
"Agouron is a hard stock to value because products are stilldistant," said Linda Miller, a biotech analyst at PaineWebber inBoston. Miller added that she thinks the stock has now caughtup with the rest of the biotech group. A price correctionfollowing this kind of upward surge wouldn't be unusual, shesaid.
-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff
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