Shares of

NaPro BioTherapeutics

(NPRO)

surged more than 17% Thursday after the small biotech firm announced a licensing deal with

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

that will allow it to sell a stabilized version of the cancer drug paclitaxel, better known under the brand name Taxol.

The deal also puts to an end dueling patent lawsuits filed by both companies against each other earlier this year. The suits related to technology that allows paclitaxel to be stored without refrigeration, giving it a shelf life of two years.

The license deal and the end of litigation between NaPro and Bristol-Myers clears the way for NaPro to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell its form of paclitaxel. NaPro filed for FDA approval in March 2001, but the review was held up by the lawsuits.

A NaPro spokesman says the company is hoping to receive FDA clearance by the end of the year.

Once approved, NaPro will sell paclitaxel through an exclusive distribution deal with

Abbott Laboratories

(ABT) - Get Report

.

Drug giant Bristol-Myers lost patent protection on Taxol in the U.S. last year, which allowed generic forms of the drug to come to market. The company is currently engaged in a court fight with

Ivax

(IVX)

and

Mylan Labs

(MYL) - Get Report

over their copycat versions of the drug.

Thursday's deal between NaPro and Bristol-Myers is not related to that fight, and actually removes the threat of any future litigation from over NaPro's head, according to the company spokesman.

Shares of NaPro are up $1.48, or 15.9%, to $10.77 in Thursday afternoon trading.