Optimer inks $90M C. difficile drug pact with Astellas

Optimer is pocketing a $20 million up-front payment on a new commercial pact for its treatment for C. difficile. Astellas is paying out the cash, and promising up to $70 million more along with double-digit royalties for the right to commercialize fidaxomicin in Japan. The two are already partnered in Europe, where they recently gained marketing approval.

The deal marks another advance for Optimer ($OPTR) as it works to build revenue for the twice-daily pill. Approved by the FDA last May, fidaxomicin--sold as Dificid--has been slowly gaining traction on the sales side. 

"Japan is a key territory we have prioritized for geographic market expansion and complements nearer-term market opportunities in the U.S., Canada and the European Union as we continue to pursue additional international market opportunities," notes Optimer CEO Pedro Lichtinger.

Jefferies' Eun Yang has estimated potential U.S. sales of fidaxomicin at about $153 million. That's not a lot, but as Xconomy reported a couple of months ago, the biotech is mounting new clinical trials to demonstrate the drug's effectiveness as a preventive measure for C. difficile, a common and lethal pathogen found in hospitals. Starting with a population of at-risk bone marrow patients, Optimer is looking for the data needed to win an expanded approval, laying the foundation for as much as $380 million in added annual sales by 2020. 

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