France’s NicOx, which has posted a widening loss for 2008, is on the look-out to acquire products in Phase III while searching for a partner for its investigational osteoarthritis treatment naproxcinod.

The Sophia Antipolis-based group’s net loss last year was 79.3 million euros, up from 32.1 million euros, while revenues were down to 3.4 million euros from 20.6 million euros in 2007. NiCox ended the year with cash and equivalents of 172.8 million euros, enough to finance the firm’s activities until the end of 2010.

Although the results are not impressive on paper, NiCox is extremely enthusiastic about its future prospects. The loss it posted was prinicipally due to costs associated with the recently-completed Phase III programme for naproxcinod, the first in a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs known as CINODs (COX-inhibiting nitric oxide-donators).

A New Drug Application submission to regulators in the USA is projected for mid-2009 and NiCox recently presented a pooled analysis of late-stage data which shows that naproxcinod significantly reduces blood pressure among patients compared to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug naproxen.

Analysts believe that naproxcinod could be a blockbuster as many agree with the company that there is an unmet medical need for an anti-inflammatory agent with no detrimental impact on blood pressure. Chief executive Michele Garufi noted that central to the firm’s ambition to “transform NicOx into a self-sustainable biopharmaceutical company” is to sign “the most appropriate commercial deal for this unique new product”.

NiCox is in talks with a number of potential partners and Mr Garufi said “our intention is to retain select commercialisation rights to naproxcinod to enable the creation of our own sales and marketing operations”. He added that the firm is also “accelerating our search for marketed or late-stage clinical products for in-licensing or acquisition to leverage our future commercial infrastructure”.