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Biotech firm Viropharma (VPHM) said Monday it is teaming up with the U.S. unit of French drugmakerAventia (AVE) to jointly develop and market itsfirst-of-its-kind treatment for the common cold,Picovir.

Viropharma filed an application for Picovir's approvalto the

Food and Drug Administration

at the end ofJuly, and is presenting data from the drug'slate-stage tests at an upcoming scientific meeting.Viropharma, based in Exton, Pa., was widely expectedto ink a marketing pact for the experimental drug inadvance of the meeting.

Terms of the agreement call for Bridgewater,N.J.-based Aventis Pharamaceuticals to pay Viropharma$25 million as the first of several milestone paymentsfor Picovir's development. If the drug is approved,the companies will split its profits -- 55% to Aventisand 45% to Viropharma. Viropharma will also be paid toco-promote other Aventis prescription drugs to doctorsin the United States.

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Viropharma says Picovir is the first drug toeffectively treat viral respiratory infection -- betterknown as the common cold -- by acting against thepicornavirus, the most common cold-causing virus.Partial results from the drug's late-stage testsconcluded that patients taking Picovir shortened theduration of their colds by as much as a day and a half.The drug also begins working within 12 to 24 hours andshows some ability to keep people from spreading coldsto others, the company has said.

A full airing of the company's test results isscheduled for the Interscience Conference onAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, which beginsSept. 22.

Biotech mavens are keying in on this presentationbecause Viropharma has yet to convince everyone thatPicovir is

effective enough to pass muster with drug regulators. Nor has itconverted skeptics who believe the drug's modestefficacy is not much better than standardover-the-counter cold remedies. Since cold sufferersmust visit their doctor to get Picovir, the drug maynever generate significant profits.

In recent trading, Viropharma was trading up $1.25, or 4.1%, to $31.40. Aventiswas trading down $3.43, or 4.9%, to $66.70.