NicOx eyes global status in eye drug game with up to $30.9M buyout of Altacor

France's NicOx ($NCOX) has decided to play a hot hand with eye drugs and land an agreement to purchase U.K.-based ophthalmology specialist Altacor. On the heels of delivering promising data from a mid-stage glaucoma program, NicOx sees the Altacor buyout as a way become an international ophthalmology company, according to its release. The deal could be worth up to £19.5 million ($30.9 million).   

NicOx has already sunk £2 million into Altacor to get an 11.8% stake in the company, with an exclusive call option to buy the rest of Altacor for an additional £9 million. The French developer has until May 31 to exercise the option, according to its release. Privately held Altacor's shareholders could get up to £8.5 million more in milestone payments in the deal if certain goals are achieved.

NicOx is looking to transform itself into an ophthalmology company after a series of regulatory setbacks when its lead painkiller naproxcinod forced the company to cut jobs and retrench in recent years. Altacor sells prescription and over-the-counter eye drugs and has a pipeline of ophthalmology products. Its pipeline features ALT-005, a surgical antiseptic for ocular infection, and a device called SOLO, used to insert lens implants into the eye. The buyout would also give NicOx a foothold in the U.K. market.

Last week, investors pumped up NicOx's share price after the company's experimental glaucoma drug called BOL-303259-X, licensed to Bausch & Lomb ($BOL), delivered upbeat data in a mid-stage study. With the buyout of Altacor, NicOx could build on that success by adding marketed products and pipeline prospects.

"The positive topline results from the Phase IIb study conducted with BOL-303259-X by Bausch & Lomb in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension announced recently have significantly strengthened our potential position in the field of ophthalmology," NicOx CEO Michele Garufi said in a statement. "Altacor is the first step toward an expansion in the ophthalmic market through future acquisitions and in-licensing of additional assets as a basis for our growth in Europe and in the United States. We are making progress in our evaluation of other opportunities to achieve our goals."

- here's NicOx's release
- and a GEN article on the deal