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Alnylam shares rise following analyst upgrade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. rose Wednesday after a Piper Jaffray analyst upgraded the shares, saying the biotechnology company should achieve several milestones in 2013.

THE SPARK: Analyst Edward Tenthoff raised his rating to "Overweight" from "Neutral," saying Alnylam has several achievements to look forward to now that it has settled a licensing dispute with Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp.

Tenthoff said the company should report data from a mid-stage clinical trial of its drug ALN-TTR02 in the middle of 2013, and said Alnylam hopes to start clinical trials of injected versions of two drugs in 2013.

He added that the company will look for new partners on its RNA interference drugs, including a potential cholesterol-lowering drug. Tenthoff raised his price target on Alnylam shares to $25 per share from $19.

THE BIG PICTURE: Alnylam's drugs use RNA interference, or RNAi, technology. RNAi therapies work by turning off or silencing disease-causing genes. ALN-TTR02 is one of the company's most advanced experimental products. It is designed to treat transthyretin familial amyloid polyneuropathy, a rare condition that is normally treated with a liver transplant. The company does not have any marketed products.

On Nov. 12 Alnylam and Tekmira resolved litigation and reached a deal for a new licensing agreement. The dispute was about lipid nanoparticle, or LNP, technology, which acts as a delivery mechanism for RNAi therapies.

SHARE ACTION: Alnylam shares rose 75 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $18.74 in afternoon trading. The stock is up 16.7 percent from its closing price on Nov. 9. It has traded in a 52-week range of $7 to $21.38.