AstraZeneca, Astellas among Optimer bidders, Bloomberg sources say

Who wants Optimer Pharmaceuticals ($OPTR) and its high-powered antibiotics? A handful of drugmakers, apparently, ranging from Big Pharma's AstraZeneca ($AZN) to Japan's second-largest drugmaker, Astellas Pharma, to rival antibiotics maker Cubist Pharmaceuticals ($CBST).

Bloomberg sources say these three pharma companies are among the bidders Optimer has attracted since February, when it announced a "strategic options" review. All the prospective buyers in the chase are healthcare companies that could market Optimer's drug for Clostridium difficile infection, Dificid, to hospitals, the sources said.

The three companies named all have current marketing partnerships with Optimer, and so their presence among the bidders isn't a surprise. Bloomberg says GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) was among the early shoppers, but the U.K.-based company decided not to bid.

Dificid is Optimer's only marketed product. The company reported $62 million in net sales for 2012, the drug's first full year on the market. That's not a huge amount by any means, but AstraZeneca, Astellas and other big drugmakers are casting about for products to make up their losses to generic competition. AstraZeneca, in particular, needs to add some cha-ching to its top line; the company has wrapped up several deals recently, but rather than marketed or near-to-marketed products, these buys focused on drugs in earlier stages of development.

Meanwhile, the company announced it has brought on Eric Sirota to serve as its chief operating officer. Sirota has been working as a consultant at Optimer since March. Previously, he was president of commercial services at inVentiv Health; he also spent 20 years at Pfizer ($PFE) in a variety of sales and commercial jobs. The news isn't unrelated; Optimer Chairman Hank McKinnell, former CEO at Pfizer, said Sirota can keep the company on course while the sale process unfolds. "His appointment fills a significant need at Optimer, and will allow me to focus more of my time on the strategic review process," McKinnell said in a statement. "Keeping the core business functioning well during this process is critical to Optimer and its stockholders."

- see the release from Optimer (PDF)
- read the Bloomberg news