Antisoma has posted a significant reduction in its losses for the year ended June 30 and says it has more cash available than at any time in its history, boosted by payments from its new partner Novartis.

Net loss narrowed 42% to £9.6 million, while turnover rose to £8.0 million from £1.6 million last year, boosted by revenues from Novartis which signed a deal potentially worth up to $890 million with Antisoma for the oncology drug ASA404. The UK firm ended the year with cash and equivalents of £61.4 million.

Antisoma chief executive Glyn Edwards said that “this has been a breakthrough year” for the firm, highlighted by the Novartis deal and the publication of positive Phase II five-month survival benefit with ASA404 in lung cancer. However the firm notes that “the true value of ASA404 lies in its potential to become a widely used cancer drug [and] the Novartis deal provides a clear route to achieve that potential”.

A study in recurrent ovarian cancer “produced mixed data when one year's follow-up was completed” in July so that indication will not be a priority for further development. However, a randomised study of ASA404 in hormone-refractory prostate cancer showed that the addition of the drug to chemotherapy improved various measures based on the prostate cancer biomarker prostate specific antigen. Further data from the prostate cancer trial, including one-year survival findings, are expected by the end of October.

Roche pact terminated early

Antisoma also noted that its alliance with another Swiss drugs giant, Roche, has come to an end. A deal was signed five years ago where Roche had an option to licence any product entering the clinic at the UK firm until November 2007 but the Basel-based group and Antisoma have agreed on a slightly early termination of the deal. This means that Roche is not taking up the opportunity to license AS1409, which combines the anti-cancer cytokine IL-12 with a tumour targeting antibody in a single drug molecule and will enter a Phase I trial by December.

Antisoma said its business has evolved since the Roche deal was signed in 2002 and “we are now more focused on taking drugs through trials ourselves”. The firm added that it wishes to thank Roche “for being an excellent and supportive partner”.