BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - NicOx SA signed a licensing and co-development agreement with the Spanish company Grupo Ferrer covering the research, development and marketing of steroid derivatives for the treatment of dermatological diseases in certain markets.

The collaboration will focus first on NCX 1022, a nitric oxide-releasing steroid developed by NicOx for treating seborrheic dermatitis that recently completed a successful Phase IIa trial. Ferrer will complete the development and commercialization of NCX 1022 and other products, while NicOx will be responsible for the initial synthesis of new compounds.

NicOx, of Sophia-Antipolis, will receive undisclosed development milestones and commercial success fees, plus royalties on sales of any products resulting from the agreement. Barcelona-based Ferrer will have marketing rights to European Union and European Free Trade Association countries, Latin America, French-speaking Africa (including Morocco and Algeria) and Egypt. NicOx will retain the right to co-market products directly in the EU and EFTA, as well as all rights for the U.S. and Asia.

The companies are to set up a joint development committee to coordinate and oversee their research and development activities. The corporate relations director of NicOx, Sylvain Goyon, told BioWorld International that the companies had agreed to a development plan providing for NCX 1022 to be filed for regulatory approval in 2007 and be on the market by 2008.

He explained that NicOx's strategy now is to concentrate on the development of more advanced drug candidates and that it had decided two years ago to find a partner that would finance the continued development of NCX 1022 and other nitric oxide-releasing steroids for dermatological applications.

At Grupo Ferrer, a privately owned company with annual revenues of about €1 billion, the vice president of research and development, Antonio Guglietta, said the deal gave it access to NicOx's "unique cutting-edge technology that could lead to the development of successful [new chemical entities] in the short term." He added that it could mark the "beginning of a fruitful and long-standing collaboration between the two companies."

According to NicOx, the Phase IIa trial of NCX 1022, which comes in the form of an ointment, showed a statistically significant improvement in clinical efficacy symptoms such as erythema, scaling and pruritis in 40 patients suffering from seborrheic dermatitis.