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Optimer board to review strategic alternatives

Shares of Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: OPTR) jumped Wednesday on the possibility of a sale of the drug developer.

The company, which has an office in San Diego, said its board has started reviewing "a full range of strategic alternatives," to maximize shareholder value, and it named former Pfizer leader Hank McKinnell CEO for the duration of the review. McKinnell has served as Optimer chairman since April and had served as chairman and CEO of Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, from 2001 to 2006.

The company declined to elaborate on its review, aside from saying there are no guarantees any action will come from it.

Shares of Optimer climbed nearly 15 percent, or $1.59, to $12.31 in Wednesday morning trading. The stock had already climbed more than 18 percent in 2013 as of Tuesday's closing price of $10.72.

McKinnell replaces Pedro Lichtinger, who has served as CEO since May 2010. Optimer also said Kurt Hartman agreed to step down as general counsel and chief compliance officer. He'll be replaced by Meredith Schaum.

The company said independent directors told the board that management changes were appropriate after they reviewed compliance, record keeping and conflict of interest issues.

Last April, Optimer ousted former chairman Michael Chang and Chief Financial Officer John Prunty due to compliance issues tied to Chang's involvement with one of the company's subsidiaries.

Optimer said Wednesday the review by independent directors included "issues arising from the conduct of Optimer personnel who were the subject of the changes in management and leadership" announced in April.

Optimer will report fourth-quarter results Thursday. It said it recorded earnings totaling 2 cents per share in the final quarter of 2012.

The company said in early January that it also recorded $21.3 million in sales from its only marketed product, the antibacterial treatment Dificid.


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