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Ironwood appoints Sarissa's Denner to board, shares surge

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BOSTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Ironwood Pharmaceuticals on Friday handed a board seat to activist investor Sarissa Capital Management, at a time when shareholders are restless about the company's sluggish share price even as its main drug sells well.

Sarissa's founder and chief investment officer, Alexander Denner, will join Ironwood's board as its 10th director, the company said.

The company's shares rose 4% in early trading, having closed at $10.01 on Thursday.

Sarissa, a $1.5 billion hedge fund which invests mainly in biotech and pharmaceutical companies, is one of Ironwood's largest shareholders, holding a stake for more than two years. It has long pushed for a board seat, but out of the public eye.

Shareholders want Ironwood to sell itself to a bigger competitor so that its blockbuster drug can be sold more widely, analysts have said.

"His wealth of knowledge will be invaluable as we continue on our mission to advance GI (gastrointestinal) medicines, redefine the standard of care for GI patients, and deliver shareholder value," Julie McHugh, chair of Ironwood's board said in a statement about Denner.

Denner, who earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Yale, also serves on the Biogen board.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)