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Antibiotics Buying Spree

Acquisitions: Biotech firm Cubist unveils two purchases to bolster its portfolio

by Lisa M. Jarvis
August 2, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 31

Striving to rely less on its flagship antibacterial Cubicin, Cubist Pharmaceuticals will spend up to $1.6 billion to acquire two antibiotics firms, Optimer Pharmaceuticals and Trius Therapeutics.

Optimer will give Cubist an FDA-approved drug, Dificid, for the treatment of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD), and Trius will contribute tedizolid, a gram-positive antibiotic that could be approved in 2014.

Both deals include performance-based payouts to lower the risk for Cubist. Optimer shareholders will get $10.75 per share up front, or $535 million, and another $5.00 per share if certain sales targets for Dificid are met. Trius shareholders will receive $13.50 per share, or roughly $707 million, and up to $2.00 more per share depending on sales of tedizolid.

Cubist says the deals will help it reach its 2017 goals, which include achieving $2 billion in annual sales—more than double its 2012 performance—and building a pipeline of four late-stage products. Dificid and tedizolid will go a long way toward that first goal, because Cubist projects combined peak sales of the two drugs will be as much as $1 billion per year.

Analysts say the additions will cushion pending revenue losses for Cubicin, which makes up the bulk of Cubist’s sales. Teva Pharmaceutical could launch a generic version of the drug as early as 2018, Leerink Swann stock analyst Howard Liang told investors in a note. “As a stand-alone, there is intense pressure for Cubist’s pipeline to deliver products that could replace Cubicin in perhaps the next two- to three-year time frame,” Liang said.

Cubist, which already copromotes Dificid with Optimer, is developing its own antibiotic for CDAD. The acquisition is leading analysts to question the future of that product, surotomycin, for which Cubist expects to seek regulatory approval in 2015.

Cubist sees room for more than one CDAD treatment. Dificid and surotomycin are “very different compounds with very different mechanisms of action,” Cubist’s chief operating officer, Robert J. Perez, said on a call with investors after the deal was announced. The CDAD market is growing, he added, noting that C. difficile is “a very difficult bug to eradicate, and recurrence of disease is a problem.”



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