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Wednesday's Health Winners & Losers

After a re-examination, the patent office issued an official rejection of each of the claims in the four patents that StemCells brought against Neuralstem in its lawsuit, according to a Neuralstem press release Wednesday. StemCells fell 5 cents, or 2.4%, to $2.04, and Neuralstem closed down 3 cents, or 1%, at $3.

Other companies gave clinical and regulatory updates.

Alexza Pharmaceuticals (ALXA) was moving in the other direction. The company said after market close on Tuesday that it expects to begin the first of two 300-patient phase III trials for iAZ-004 for acute agitation in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, late in the first quarter of 2008.

AZ-004 is being developed through Symphony Allegro, a product development collaboration formed between Alexza and Symphony Capital. Alexza shares gained 45 cents, or 5.3%, to $8.97, helping the Nasdaq biotechnology index, which was up 2.38, or 0.3%, to 847.90.

And on the approval side, the FDA said it cleared the FluMist nasal spray influenza vaccine for children between the ages of two and five. FluMist is made by MedImmune, which was recently acquired by AstraZeneca (AZN).

AstraZeneca said MedImmune anticipates shipping FluMist with the expanded label to health care providers in the coming days so that vaccinations may be offered to eligible individuals ahead of and throughout the upcoming influenza season. AstraZeneca edged up 21 cents, or 0.4%, to $48.21.

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