BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - NicOx SA signed an exclusive license agreement with AstraZeneca plc granting it rights to develop and commercialize AZD 3582 and certain other cox-inhibiting nitric oxide-donators (CINODs) in Japan.

CINODs are a novel class of drug being developed for the treatment of acute and chronic pain.

The deal effectively extends the agreement signed between the two companies in 1998 under which NicOx, of Sophia-Antipolis, granted London-based AstraZeneca an exclusive worldwide license (but semi-exclusive in Japan) to develop, manufacture and sell products containing certain CINODs.

Under the terms of the latest agreement, NicOx will receive milestone payments totaling up to €22 million from AstraZeneca, starting with an up-front payment of €5 million. In addition, the French company will receive royalties of 12 percent on AstraZeneca's net sales of the compounds concerned in Japan.

AZD 3582 is the first compound selected by AstraZeneca from the CINODs developed by NicOx. Originally designated HCT 3012, the compound is a nitric oxide-releasing derivative of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug naproxen and now carries AstraZeneca's development reference number. Moreover, it was AstraZeneca that re-baptized this CINOD class of compound.

Proof of concept for AZD 3582 in man was declared in May, following a Phase I trial completed a year and a half earlier that showed a significant reduction in gastrointestinal tract toxicity compared with naproxen. AstraZeneca initiated a multicenter Phase II trial of the compound in January 2001, but NicOx's manager of corporate relations, Sylvain Goyon, said the company is not saying when the results will be available.

However, Goyon was able to tell BioWorld International that AstraZeneca plans to have AZD 3582 on the market in 2005, a year later than it originally hoped.