Antisoma has been forced to make more job cuts after its Novartis-partnered lung cancer drug ASA404 failed in a late stage trial in March, but the UK biotech believes there is enough in its portfolio to succeed.

The company has publishes an interim management statement for the first five months of 2010, noting that “we are determined to bounce back strongly from the recent disappointment over ASA404”. At the end of March, Antisoma’s shares sank after an interim analysis of data from the ATTRACT-1 Phase III trial in patients with previously untreated non-small cell lung cancer indicated that “there is little or no prospect of demonstrating a survival benefit”.

The firm now says “we recognise that ASA404 was considered the company's most significant asset, but we are confident that Antisoma's strategy of investment in a diversified portfolio of products remains sound. We have had to make tough decisions in light of the ASA404 result, but believe that we have the product assets, people and financial resources to build value for the future”.

The company’s hopes now hang on AS1413 for patients with secondary acute myeloid leukaemia. A Phase III trial now recruited over 75% of its target of 450 patients, and Antisoma says there is interest from potential licensing partners. The firm states that “we have decided to take a pragmatic stance to realising the value of this drug, and have therefore widened our partnering discussions to include US rights, which we had previously planned to retain”. Another AML drug, AS1411, is in a 90-patient Phase IIb study.

Times are tough at Antisoma and the firm noted that it is no longer anticipating further revenues from the ASA404 programme. It has “therefore taken steps to reduce our cash utilisation and ensure that our funds take us comfortably through key clinical data on AS1413 and AS1411”. It had around £45 million at the end of February.

The London-headquartered firm concluded by saying that “regrettably, we have had to restructure the business and make headcount reductions as part of our effort to conserve cash resources”. Chief operating officer Ursula Ney has left the company as have wo other members of the senior management team, Julio Gagne and Kevin Kissane. Antisoma’s headcount is now around 75.