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Astex Pharma rises on J&J milestone payment

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Astex Pharmaceuticals Inc. rose Wednesday after the company said it received a $5.4 million payment from its partner Johnson & Johnson.

THE SPARK: Astex said J&J's Janssen division has started human testing of an experimental cancer drug. Janssen will handle regulatory development and sales of the drug if it is approved. Astex can receive additional payments as development continues, and it will receive royalties if the drug is approved and sold.

THE BIG PICTURE: Astex and Janssen have been working together since June 2008. Astex helped develop the drug Dacogen, a treatment for a bone marrow cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome. Dacogen, sold by Eisai Co. of Japan and Johnson & Johnson, is Astex's only approved product.

On Feb. 6, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said Dacogen should not be approved to treat a second disease, acute myeloid leukemia.

The Dublin, Calif., company also has development partnerships with Novartis AG, AstraZeneca PLC, and GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

Astex, previously known as SuperGen Inc., changed its name in September after buying Astex Therapeutics Ltd. in April 2011.

SHARE ACTION: Astex shares picked up 10 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $1.92 in afternoon trading. The stock is down 35 percent since the FDA panel issued its recommendation on Dacogen.