The UK’s Antisoma is dipping into its considerable cash pile and has signed a deal with Sweden’s Betagenon that could eventually lead to new cancer compounds.

Under the terms of the agreement, financial details for which were not disclosed, Antisoma has licensed rights to develop and commercialise Betagenon's AMP activated protein kinase (AMPK) activators in cancer indications.

Betagenon, which is privately-held, has developed a series of small molecules that activate AMPK, which is best known as a target in diabetes. However the firms say that AMPK activators also have significant potential in cancer treatment.

Antisoma's chief executive Glyn Edwards said that Betagenon's AMPK activators “are another promising addition to our preclinical oncology portfolio”. He added that “they fit with our strategy of acquiring a diverse range of novel and class-leading preclinical compounds with potential to add value to our clinical pipeline in the future."

The Swedish deals comes days after Antisoma received a major boost from the news that partner Novartis has started late-stage trials of the lung cancer compound ASA404, a move which triggers a $25 million payment to the UK firm. This sum, coupled with the £50.4 million that Antisoma had in cash at the end of 2007, means that the company is in a very healthy financial position at a time when other biotechs are struggling for funding.

This situation has led analysts to believe that Antisoma will use its cashpile to pick up the assets of struggling cancer drug specialists.