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Acorda Therapeutics, Inc. (ACOR - Analyst Report) recently announced data from a phase I trial (n=40) evaluating the safety, tolerability and exploratory efficacy of glial growth factor 2 (GGF2) in patients with heart failure, who have already received currently available treatments. Acorda has collaborated with Vanderbilt University Medical Center for the candidate.

In the double-blind, placebo controlled, escalating, single-dose, phase I study, it was found that a single dose of GGF2 was generally well tolerated up to 0.75 mg/kg by the patients. Most commonly observed side effects associated with the use of GGF2 were headache, site injection reaction and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Additionally, GGF2 also demonstrated encouraging improvement in left ventricular ejection. We note that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted fast track designation to GGF2 for the treatment of patients with heart failure.   

We are pleased with the company’s efforts to develop its pipeline. However, most of the candidates are in early stages of development. Consequently they are quite a few years away from entering the market, if at all. We are also concerned about Acorda’s dependence on Ampyra (improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis) for growth.

While we are encouraged by the improvement in Ampyra’s performance and the 2013 Ampyra guidance, it remains to be seen whether the trend can be sustained.

Acorda carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) in the short run. Stocks that currently look attractive in the pharma space include companies like Cytokinetics, Inc. (CYTK - Snapshot Report), Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. (OSIR - Analyst Report) and Agenus Inc. (AGEN - Snapshot Report). While Cytokinetics and Osiris are Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks, Agenus is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock.

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