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Infinity Pharmaceuticals rises on analyst coverage

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc. rose Friday after a Piper Jaffray analyst said he believes the company's experimental drug will be approved to treat several types of cancer, with annual sales eventually approaching $3 billion.

THE SPARK: Analyst M. Ian Somaiya began covering Infinity shares with an "Overweight" rating and a price target of $53 per share. Somaiya said he thinks shares of Infinity will continue to rise as the company reports results from early clinical trials of the drug, called IPI-145. He doesn't expect the drug to be approved until 2019, but said annual sales could reach $2 billion as a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, $750 million for follicular lymphoma and $150 million for mantle cell lymphoma.

"We believe physicians are eager to move away from traditional chemotherapy drugs, and would embrace targeted therapies with relatively benign safety profiles, opening blockbuster opportunities for IPI-145," Somaiya wrote.

THE BIG PICTURE: Infinity does not have any approved drugs. It has two drugs in clinical testing: IPI-145 as a treatment for blood cancers, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis, and IPI-504 as a treatment for lung cancer. IPI-145 is designed to block enzymes that are involved in immune cell functions, and IPI-504 is designed to make other cancer drugs more effective by blocking a protein that is critical to cancer cell growth, survival, and proliferation.

The Cambridge, Mass., company is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results on Tuesday. Analysts forecast a quarterly loss of 84 cents per share, according to a survey by FactSet.

SHARE ACTION: Infinity Pharmaceuticals shares picked up $2.24, or 5.4 percent, to $43.53 in midday trading and earlier rose as high as $43.86. The stock nearly quadrupled in value in 2012, rising from $8.84 at the end of 2011 to $35 at the end of 2012. The shares are now trading at their highest prices in 12 years.