Shares in NicOx have soared after the French biotech and partner Bausch + Lomb posted positive topline results from a mid-stage study of their investigational glaucoma drug.

The 413-patient Phase IIb study saw BOL_303259_X, a nitric oxide-donating prostaglandin F2_alpha analogue, and Pfizer's Xalatan (latanoprost) tested in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. All four doses of the NicOx/B + L drug reduced intraocular pressure (IOP) on day 28 and, most strikingly, two of the doses tested showed greater IOP reduction compared with Xalatan. Safety of the two drugs was comparable.

The drug, then known as NCX 116, was originally licensed to Pfizer but the rights were bought back by NicOx in August 2009 as the US giant decided it was not a core project. B + L snapped up rights to the drug in March 2010, paying a $10 million upfront fee and the firm will now make another $10 million milestone payment to NicOx and initiate a global Phase III programme.

Dan Wechsler, head of global pharmaceuticals at B + L, said that BOL_303259_X "adds to our growing portfolio of potential new products in eye health" and could "provide a promising new treatment option for the millions of people around the world suffering from elevated IOP due to glaucoma or ocular hypertension".

Michele Garufi, chief executive of NicOx, which is eligible to receive $162.5 million extra plus tiered double-digit royalties, said the positive results "support the strong potential of our nitric oxide-donating platform in the ophthalmology field". He added that "we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the B + L team on the Phase III development programme.”

Investors are impressed and NicOx shares leapt 44.9% to end the day at 2.64 euros, its highest jump for six years.