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NicOx Heads for Biggest Weekly Gain on Ophthalmology Drug

NicOx SA had the biggest weekly gain in six years in Paris trading on optimism the drug developer will succeed in building an ophthalmology business after positive trial results on a glaucoma treatment.

NicOx rose 7 percent to 2.97 euros in Paris. For the week, the stock climbed 67 percent, the biggest increase since March 2006.

NicOx, based in Sophia Antipolis, France, and partner Bausch & Lomb Inc. said in a March 13 statement the experimental drug helped reduce the fluid pressure inside the eye in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Bausch & Lomb will pay NicOx $10 million for meeting the target and begin advanced tests on the compound, known as BOL-303259-X, they said. Pfizer Inc. had previously dropped its development. NicOx shares surged 45 percent March 13.

“NicOx continues rising on the back of the good news from earlier this week,” Sebastien Malafosse, an analyst at Paris-based Bryan, Garnier & Co. who has a “buy” recommendation on the stock, said in a phone interview today. “The company once again has a compound in phase 3. This validates the strategy of Chief Executive Officer Michele Garufi.”

The 58-year-old CEO, who co-founded NicOx in 1996, told analysts during a Feb. 29 conference call he wants to create an “international specialist pharmaceutical company focused on the development of late-stage products and their commercialization.”

Seeking Acquisitions

NicOx is looking for acquisitions or partnerships to help fill its pipeline, Garufi said that day. The company is “in mass discussion with a number of acquisition and in-licensing targets,” he said.

Garufi declined to comment on NicOx’s share-price performance in an e-mail today. Even with this week’s gain, the stock is at a fraction of its previous levels. NicOx has plunged in each of the past five years after setbacks in drug development.

Two of the four doses of BOL-303259-X tested reduced eye-fluid pressure more than Pfizer’s Xalatan, NicOx and Bausch & Lomb said. NicOx sold rights to the drug to Rochester, New York-based Bausch & Lomb in March 2010. It had repurchased them from Pfizer in 2009 after the U.S. company decided not to pursue the compound’s development.

NicOx is likely to use its cash for acquisitions or partnerships, according to Malafosse. NicOx had 93.1 million euros ($122 million) in cash and cash equivalents at the end of last year.

“This gives an idea of the firepower they could have for deals,” Malafosse said.

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