NicOx takes 12% stake in Altacor

Broadening its position in the ophthalmology sector

NicOx has acquired 11.8% of Altacor, as a first step towards becoming a late-stage development and commercial ophthalmology company.

The French firm has also signed an exclusive option agreement to acquire the remaining shares of privately held Altacor, which is based Cambridge in the UK.

NicOx will pay £2m (approximately €2.4m) in cash for the initial stake.

The firm has also been granted an exclusive call option to acquire the remaining shares for an additional £9m (approximately €10.8m) to be paid in NicOx shares, cash or a combination of cash and shares at NicOx’s discretion. NicOx may exercise this option up until 31 May. If agreed milestones are met, the sum will be increased by up to £8.5m.

Altacor’s primary focus has been to build a specialist pharmaceutical company and has products, pipeline and relationships in place to advance this with NicOx.

The firm sells prescription and over-the-counter products for the treatment of dry eye in the UK and Ireland and has a diversified late-stage pipeline including ALT-005, a surgical antiseptic, and SOLO, a device for the insertion of IntraOcular Lenses (IOLs).

NicOx believes significant growth in the ophthalmic market offers potential to create a mid-sized international specialist pharmaceutical company. The global ophthalmic market was valued at US$16.2bn in 2010 and is expected to reach $21.1bn by 2016, growing at an average rate of 4.5% a year.

NicOx has already gained significant expertise in ophthalmology through its collaborations with Bausch + Lomb, Pfizer, and a network of advisors and key opinion leaders.

If NicOx decides to exercise its option to acquire the remaining Altacor shares, the acquisition would bring an experienced commercial management team and a marketing platform supporting sales in the UK and Ireland as a first step from which to build a presence in other EU countries.

Michele Garufi, chief executive of NicOx says the firm is currently evaluating a number of additional ophthalmic acquisition and in-licensing opportunities, including therapeutics, diagnostics and devices, both in the US and Europe.

‘We are making progress in our evaluation of other opportunities to achieve our goals,’ she said.

Dr Fran Crawford, ceo of Altacor, added: ‘We believe NicOx is an excellent partner for Altacor and the investment announced today will enable us to secure the development of the portfolio, including our lead candidate ALT-005. NicOx’s r&d and partnering expertise will be of significant benefit as we progress our late-stage pipeline.’