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United Therapeutics shares hit new high; Stock leaps $14.875 to $81, even though firm makes no new announcements


Shares in United Therapeutics Inc. soared to a new high yesterday, although there was no apparent reason for the spike.

Shares in the Silver Spring biotechnology concern closed yesterday at $81, up $14.875, or almost 23 percent, even though the company made no new announcements.

The company's previous 52-week closing high was $79.75 on Jan. 20. The company went public in June at $12 a share. Paul Mahon, corporate counsel for the company, did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment.

Prudential Securities biotechnology analyst Robert J. Toth, who covers the company, was also unavailable yesterday.

The 3-year-old company's leading product candidate is UT-15, a synthetic form of prostacyclin, a naturally occurring molecule, that helps keep blood vessels healthy and well oxygenated. UT-15 is in the late stages of clinical trials at 19 medical centers in the United States and 15 centers in Europe, Australia and Asia.

The company hopes to one day market the drug to treat life-threatening pulmonary hypertension in the United States and Europe.

Toth has estimated that the drug could generate $75 million in revenue in first-year sales, and potentially $2 billion annually if it wins approval in Europe and the United States. Analysts believe the drug will not be approved for U.S. marketing until 2001, but would make the company profitable, despite the relatively small number of people afflicted with primary and secondary pulmonary hypertension: about 40,000 in each market.

Last week, the company said it was launching a second late-stage human trial of the drug Beraprost, for pulmonary vascular disease.

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