Cardiome shares jump after vernakalant OK triggers $30M milestone

Shares of Canada's Cardiome Pharma (CRME) surged yesterday evening after the biotech announced it will reap a $30 million milestone payment from Merck following the approval of the IV formulation of vernakalant in the European Union, Iceland and Norway.

Merck decided recently to postpone a Phase III trial of oral vernakalant, a new drug to treat an irregular heartbeat, which analysts said would likely push back a commercial launch until 2016. News of the delay triggered a drop in Cardiome's share price in August, but its stock was trading up 10 percent this morning. Merck handed over $60 million upfront for its pact covering vernakalant, along with $300 million in milestones.

"European approval and the milestone payment further strengthen Cardiome's financial position, both in the near term and in the long term via royalties from product sales," said Cardiome CEO Doug Janzen in a statement. "The teams at Merck and Cardiome have done an exemplary job in gaining European regulatory approval for Brinavess, and Cardiome is now part of a select group of biotechnology companies who have successfully shepherded a molecule from discovery through to product approval."

- check out the Cardiome release for more info