Shares of MannKind Corp. rose to their highest price in 18 months Monday after the company's chief executive said the small biotech was getting increased interest from drug makers to partner on its new Afresa inhaled insulin product.

Discussions have taken place with "a number of very significant" drug companies that are "very qualified to take this to market," said Chief Executive Alfred Mann in an interview with the CNBC television network. The comments followed positive clinical trial results presented over the weekend at the American Diabetes Association meeting in New Orleans.

Simos Simeonidis, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw Inc., wrote in a Monday investor report that the studies "solidify our view that Afresa can be a product that could take market share away from injectable insulins and become a significant player in the diabetes space."

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is reviewing a new drug application for Afresa could make a decision later this year.

The company has struggled to find a suitable marketing partner since Pfizer pulled its first-to-market Exubera from the market in 2007 due to poor sales and safety concerns. Two other companies later stopped developing competing products, leaving the field to MannKind.

MannKind closed up $1.02, or 14.5 percent, to $8.08 on the Nasdaq, the highest level since Jan. 7, 2008. A few months later shares almost plunged below $2 after Eli Lilly & Co. dropped its inhaled insulin development program.

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