Shares in NicOx have risen steeply after the French biotech posted its financials for the first quarter and revealed plans for more ophthalmology acquisitions on top of its planned purchase of the UK's Altacor.

Revenues came in at 7.5 million euros compared to zero for the corresponding period in 2011, thanks exclusively to a one-off payment from partner Bausch + Lomb. That was paid following positive topline results from a mid-stage study of their investigational glaucoma drug BOL_303259_X, a nitric oxide-donating prostaglandin F2_alpha analogue.

Net profit was 4.2 million euros compared to a loss of 4.1 million in the like, year-earlier period. At the end of the quarter, NicOx had cash and equivalents of 86.8 million euros.

Investors have taken more interest in the Sophia Antipolis-based firm since it bought a stake in Altacor in March, with a view to buying the privately-held ophthalmology company outright. Announcing the quarterly results, chief executive Michele Garufi said that "if we decide to exercise the option to acquire Altacor, NicOx would benefit from an experienced sales infrastructure in the UK with a range of marketed products".

He added that "we are in advanced discussions with a number of parties to secure additional acquisition and in-licensing deals to build a diversified, late-stage ophthalmic portfolio with a clear route to commercialisation in the major markets".

Naproxcinod taks with FDA

Before the move to transform itself into an ophthalmology company, NicOx was best-known for naproxcinod in July 2010 for the relief of the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis. A European filing was pulled and the firm was forced into a major restructuring.

However it would appear that NicOx has not given up on the drug, an improved version of naproxen. It met with the FDA last month to discuss the proposed use of naproxcinod 375 mg twice-daily for the treatment of signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee, under a proposed New Drug Application that would require additional clinical data. NicOx says it is assessing the requirements discussed with the agency and it intends to seek a partner to fund and manage any further development of naproxcinod.

NicOx shares ended the day up 16.4% at 3.18 euros.