Friday, November 14, 2008

Big Diff May Lead to Big Deal

Talk about good timing.

On November 10th Optimer Pharmaceuticals announced results from a Phase III study of its OPT-80 antibiotic that suggest it is as good or better at treating the dangerous diarrhea-inducing C. difficile infection than the current standard for moderate and severe infections, oral vancomycin (i.e. ViroPharma's Vancocin, net sales expected to be $225-245mm this year).

On November 11th the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) released a survey claiming that more than 1% of all patients are infected by C. diff during a hospital stay. (About 7,000 daily, or a 6.5x spike compared with previous estimates.)

Our full coverage of OPT-80 and the scourge of C. diff is at the Pink Sheet Daily, yesterday and today.

The Monday afternoon announcement did wonders for Optimer's market valuation--doubling the worth of the company to about $270 million--though that figure retreated somewhat as the week wore on.

But more importantly, the data will likely put Optimer in a strong partnering position. It might even put them--given the beating that many biotechs have taken in the market--in a prime takeover position for those bigger biotechs and pharma companies that stayed in the antibiotics space when it wasn't in vogue and are now reaping the rewards.

In any event it should keep them from having to access capital at overly expensive prices; the firm has an open shelf registration and can draw on that while its stock is buoyed by this week's news.

Whether that'd be enough cash to see its compounds through registration and build a US hospital sales force (at 100-150 reps) as is the company's plan, who knows. Regardless, between OPT-80 and a second project in Phase III for travelers' diarrhea (prulifloxacin) with results due in next year, Optimer is optimerally well positioned.

image from flickr user red5standingby used under a creative commons license

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