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Neurocrine rises following analyst upgrade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Neurocrine Biosciences Inc. rose Wednesday after a Cowen and Co. analyst upgraded the shares based on one of the company's most advanced drug candidates.

THE SPARK: Analyst Phil Nadeau upgraded Neurocrine Biosciences Inc. stock to "outperform" from "market perform" and said he is taking a more optimistic view of a drug candidate called NBI-98854. Neurocrine is developing the drug as a treatment for tardive dyskinesia, an illness that causes involuntary movements and spasms. While clinical trial results for the drug have been mixed, Nadeau said some physician consultants think it could be a useful treatment.

He said U.S. sales could reach $300 million by 2020, and set a price target of $20 on Neurocrine's stock.

THE BIG PICTURE: In early 2012, Neurocrine reported mixed results for NBI-98854: It said investigators at one of its clinical sites didn't apply the testing protocols correctly. The drug did not work better than a placebo in the trial, although the company said one dose of the drug did meet its goals if results from the disputed site are excluded.

Neurocrine finished enrolling patients in a new mid-stage trial July 1. The study compares NBI-98854 to placebo in patients with moderate to severe tardive dyskinesia and underlying schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

The San Diego company has no products on the market. It is developing treatments for endometriosis pain, uterine fibroids, stress-related disorders, pain, diabetes and insomnia. Its most advanced drug candidate is elagolix, a treatment for endometriosis, or excessive growth of the uterine lining, and for uterine fibroids, or benign growths in the uterus. AbbVie Inc. is conducting late-stage studies of the drug.

SHARE ACTION: Neurocrine Biosciences shares gained 52 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $15 in afternoon trading. Earlier in the day the stock reached a seven-year high of $15.33.