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BioCryst shares jump as flu concern grows in China

The Associated Press

Shares of flu treatment developer BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. soared Monday morning as concern continued to grow about a new strain of bird flu emerging in China

THE SPARK: A bird flu strain labeled H7N9 that has never before been found in humans has sickened at least 24 people in eastern China, killing seven of them.

Officials say they do not know why the virus is infecting humans now. It has been detected in live poultry in several food markets where human cases have been found, leading officials to think people are most likely contracting the virus through direct contact with infected fowl.

There's no evidence so far that the virus is spreading easily between people, but scientists are watching closely to see if the flu poses a substantial risk to public health or could potentially spark a global pandemic.

THE BIG PICTURE: BioCryst, based in Durham, N.C., is developing an intravenous anti-viral agent named peramivir that aims to treat the flu.

On April 1, the company said it received a letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that outlines an approach the company could take in applying to have the drug approved and ultimately sold in the United States.

THE ANALYSIS: WBB Securities analyst Steve Brozak said the stock's rise is tied to the bird flu concerns. But he noted that it remains to be seen whether BioCryst's treatment is effective against the current strain. He said the stock also has risen in recent years when other flu scares surfaced.

"Every time something comes up like this, the stuck runs," he said. "It's 'gather up the usual suspects.'"

SHARE ACTION: Up 35 cents, or nearly 21 percent, to $2.05 in late-morning trading, while broader trading indexes fell slightly. Company shares have climbed 44 percent since closing 2012 at $1.42.