BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - NicOx SA and Pfizer Inc. formed a deal in a specific, but undisclosed, field covering a selection of nitric oxide-donating compounds patented by NicOx.

NicOx, of Sophia-Antipolis, France, granted New York-based Pfizer an option for a worldwide, exclusive license to the compounds. NicOx is to receive an up-front payment of $1 million, followed by a second $1 million installment in six months' time. Also, the company said it could receive development milestones totaling up to $35 million if the collaboration results in the development of one marketable drug. In that event, NicOx also would receive royalties.

NicOx's corporate relations director, Sylvain Goyon, told BioWorld International that royalties also would be payable if Pfizer developed other products derived from the same technology.

During the initial phase, NicOx will synthesize a series of nitric oxide-donating compounds for evaluation by Pfizer in a series of screening and characterization tests. The program will be carried out under the supervision of a joint development committee.

If the initial evaluation is successful, the collaboration would move into the development phase. Pfizer would finance the preclinical and clinical development of the selected products and handle the regulatory filings and commercialization. Goyon said there is no limit on the number of compounds Pfizer could select.

It is the third development and licensing agreement NicOx has concluded over the past year, following those signed in August 2003 with Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., which also related to an undisclosed therapeutic field; and in May with the Spanish company Grupo Ferrer, which covered new steroid derivatives for the treatment of dermatological diseases.

For NicOx, the deals have partially offset the failure of its collaboration with AstraZeneca plc, of London, which in September 2003 terminated a drug development agreement covering a number of COX-inhibiting nitric oxide-donating drugs developed by NicOx as anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds.

While NicOx's share price has never fully recovered from that, Goyon maintained that the recent deals showed the industry was still interested in NicOx's nitric oxide-donating technology.

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