Pfizer has inked a 323 million-euro ($385m) deal with French biotechnology firm NicOx to secure rights to the latter’s nitric oxide-donating technology across the entire field of ophthalmology.

The licensing agreement, which includes payments of 23 million euros ($27m) to NicOx in the first year of the collaboration, including a 15 million euro equity investment, comes on the back of preclinical results which showed that one of NicOx’ product candidates was more effective than a standard treatment for glaucoma, a major cause of blindness.

The study showed that NicOx’ NO-donating compound was more effective in reducing intraocular pressure - the primary target in glaucoma treatment - than the reference drug. Despite the introduction of a number of new treatments for glaucoma in recent years, research shows that around 10% of patients still experience vision loss, demonstrating the strong necessity for improved drugs.

The agreement also provides for potential milestone payments in excess of 300 million euros, of which 102 million euros would arise from the successful full development and launch of the first compound from the alliance.