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Optimer Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:OPTR) of San Diego signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with C&O Pharmaceutical Technology [COPT] to explore potential areas in which the two companies can collaborate. C&O trades on the Singapore exchange; its headquarters are in Hong Kong, and its operations are in mainland China, in the city of Nanjing.

The two companies plan to explore pre-clinical and clinical studies, screening and synthesizing new compounds, transferring technology, and licensing product candidates. Optimer said that the initial focus of the discussions would be on two carbohydrate-based product candidates from Optimer, OPT-88 for the treatment of osteoarthritis, and OPT-822/821 for breast cancer.

These are in relatively early development. OPT-88 is beginning Phase II trials, while OPT-822/821 is completing its pre-clinical work. Optimer will also look at C&O’s products to see if in-licensing opportunities exist. In addition, Optimer has two anti-infective compounds in late-stage development. OPT-80 is being developed for the treatment of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, the most common hospital-acquired diarrhea. Prulifloxacin is in two Phase III trials to treat travelers' diarrhea. C&O makes and markets drugs in China, many of them antibiotics. It has several drugs that it imports into China and for which it holds sole distribution rights. It also has its own line of pharmaceuticals and a distribution network that covers the entire country.

The company spends 1.9% of its revenues on R&D. In April of this year, CMIA Capital Partners paid HKD 78.05 million for a 6.54% stake in C&O, implying a value of HKD 1.193 billion ($153 million). Subsequently, CMIA bought 43 million new shares of C&O to bring its stake up to 13%.

In 2006, C&O reported revenues that grew 18% to HKD 347 million ($44 million), making a profit of HKD 118 million ($15 million), a very healthy profit margin. Its imported drugs contributed 76% of the company’s total sales.

Disclosure: none.

Source: Optimer Pharma to Talk Collaboration with C&O On Cross-Licensing Products