GW Pharma Rises After Analyst Sees Promise in Marijuana-Derived Epilepsy Drug

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH) are climbing after research firm Piper Jaffray sharply raised its price target on the stock after attending a conference of the Dravet Foundation and speaking with epilepsy specialists. Dravet Syndrome is a form of epilepsy and the foundation raises money to combat it. GW has created a drug for the treatment of seizures based on cannabinoid, one of the components of marijuana.

WHAT'S NEW: After attending the conference, Piper Jaffray analyst Dr. Joshua Schimmer wrote that he is more confident that GW's epilepsy treatment, Epidiolex, is "a highly attractive emerging therapy" for the disease. Epidiolex has a unique combination of safety and effectiveness, the analyst believes. Children with Dravet who are treated with Epidiolex have fewer seizures and can take lower doses of other medicines, while the social skills of many of them improve, Schimmer reported. He increased his price target on GW to $147 from $97 and kept an Overweight rating on the stock.

WHAT'S NOTABLE: Eventually Epidiolex's use should extend far beyond difficult to treat cases of Dravet, the analyst forecast. A logical potential use for the drug is as a treatment for autism, Schimmer believes. There is a strong correlation between autism and Dravet Syndrome or frequent seizures, he explained. Additionally, there are "anecdotal reports" that autism patients have responded very well to cannabinoids and GW and specialists are becoming more confident that a number of autism patients will benefit from them, he reported.

PRICE ACTION: In early trading, GW Pharmaceuticals shares climbed 8.5% to $104.35.

Reporting by Larry Ramer.

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