Smaller drug developers like Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CBST) don't have nearly the level of resources needed to bring their drugs to market and commence sales in the fragmented pharmaceutical marketplace throughout much of the world. The only way for specialty pharmas like Cubist to get their drugs to countries outside the United States or the European Union is by teaming with a much larger pharmaceutical company. Yesterday, Cubist did just that by signing a commercialization agreement with AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) to help bring to market and sell Cubist's lead drug, the antibiotic Cubicin, in various smaller markets throughout the world.

In return for getting the rights to market Cubicin in China and certain other Asian countries, as well as places like the Middle East and Africa, Cubist will receive an undisclosed royalty on all sales of the drug. The agreement also gives Cubist $10 million up front and provides for milestone payments upon Cubicin's reaching certain regulatory and sales milestones in various countries.

The best part of the deal is that Cubist retains the rights to Cubicin in Japan, which is by far the biggest market in all of Asia, accounting for almost two-thirds of the approximately $100 billion Asian market for pharmaceuticals. I'd expect an agreement with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) or the Japanese pharmaceutical giant Takeda sometime in the near future to cover Japan, now that the value of Cubicin has been set in the rest of Asia.

When partnering a drug, it's not only the terms of the partnership that are important, but also the quality and clout of the partner. Cubist made a smart decision in choosing AstraZeneca, because it is well represented in Asia and as of 2004 was the ninth largest pharmaceutical company in this rapidly growing market.

Cubicin sales have been growing like crazy in the past year, and opening up sales in these new markets will only hasten the drug's sales trajectory. Cubist is smart to get the long process of bringing Cubicin to market in the individual Asian countries underway sooner rather than later, as the Asia Pacific region accounts for roughly 17% of worldwide pharmaceutical sales. Getting an experienced pharma partner like AstraZeneca to help with the process and provide a generous up-front payment makes this move even better.

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Fool contributor Brian Lawler does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy .