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2 analysts give Chimerix shares highest ratings

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two analysts starting covering biotech drugmaker Chimerix Inc. with top ratings on Monday, pointing to the company's experimental drug CMX001.

THE OPINION: Cowen & Co. analyst Phil Nadeau initiated coverage with an "Outperform" rating. He said the company will start late-stage clinical trials of CMX001 later in 2013, and could launch the drug by 2016. Chimerix is seeking approval to market the drug as a treatment for cytomegalovirus in people who have received a transplant of blood stem cells. Nadeau said he thinks the drug will eventually get broader marketing approval.

Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that infects most people. It rarely causes problems, but it can cause serious infections in people who have received organ transplants or in immunodeficient patients, such as those with HIV or AIDS. Chimerix said there are no approved drugs that prevent the virus in that group of patients.

The Durham, N.C., company plans to study CMX001 as a treatment for other viruses as well.

Morgan Stanley analyst David Friedman initiated coverage with an "Overweight" rating and a price target of $26 per share. He said he thinks CMX001 is likely to succeed in late-stage testing and it, and sales could reach $750 million a year by 2022.

THE STOCK: Morgan Stanley and Cowen were lead managers of Chimerix's IPO in April. The offering priced at $14 per share, at the midpoint of expectations. Shares of Chimerix have climbed 49.6 percent since then, closing at $20.95 on Friday. The stock slipped 18 cents to $20.77 in afternoon trading.