Cambridge-based start-up company Bicycle Therapeutics has recently raised £40 million from a range of investors to bring its cancer drug candidates to clinical trials.

Bicycle Therapeutics is an ambitious company, with a world-class team, that has all the ingredients for another Cambridge success story.

Michael Anstey

Among the investors in the new funding round is Cambridge Innovation Capital, which invests in companies based on valuable intellectual property in the Cambridge Cluster, or with links to the University of Cambridge. The University is the largest investor in Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), which was founded by Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation arm, in 2013. 

Bicycle Therapeutics is developing a new class of drugs called ‘Bicycles’, which are based on small protein chains, or peptides, which have been chemically constrained, and have a similar shape to a bicycle wheel. They have been designed to combine the best features of small molecule and antibody based drugs. The science behind the creation of Bicycles is based on work initiated at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology by Professor Sir Greg Winter, a pioneer in monoclonal antibody development and the Master of Trinity College, working together with Professor Christian Heinis from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

‘Bicycles’ have a range properties which make them an excellent choice as a potential drug. They have the binding capacity and specificity of an antibody, but can penetrate tissue such as solid tumours easily because of their relatively small size. In addition, due to their small size and peptidic nature, they are cleared from the body via the kidneys, allowing them to be designed in such a way as to maximise their efficiency while minimising the chance of any side effects.

Bicycle Therapeutics’ most advanced potential product, known as BT1718, is the first example of its Bicycle Drug Conjugate® (BDC) technology, in which the Bicycle is targeted to bind specifically to malignant tumours and is harnessed to a chemical payload designed to destroy cancer cells once it reaches its target.

BT1718 targets a cell surface protein called Membrane Type 1 Matrix Metalloproteinase (MT1-MTP). MT1-MTP occurs in high concentration in many solid malignant tumours. Consequently BT1718 may have the capacity to become a treatment for a range of cancers which currently do not have good treatment options such as ‘triple negative’ breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. It is expected to enter clinical trials in 2017 in partnership with Cancer Research UK.

Bicycle Therapeutics is not the first start-up in which Professor Winter has been involved. Cambridge Antibody Therapeutics, the discoverers of rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, and Domantis were both based on his work on therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. This work has enabled great improvements in the treatment of cancer and immune disorders and, as a result, many of the world’s blockbuster pharmaceutical drugs are based on the techniques he developed.

“The pre-clinical studies to date show Bicycles have many of the attributes needed to be an effective medical treatment,” said Dr Michael Anstey, Investment Director at CIC. “The next big step is to take this into humans and if they show the same characteristics this will be very exciting. Bicycle Therapeutics is an ambitious company, with a world-class team, that has all the ingredients for another Cambridge success story.”

“I am delighted that Bicycle Therapeutics has secured this new funding to enable the team to move multiple programmes into the clinic,” said Professor Winter. “Bicycles are different from both antibodies and small molecules, with some of the benefits of each, giving them the potential to deliver an exciting new class of therapeutics across different diseases.”

“This financing represents an important validation of our approach, while providing Bicycle Therapeutics with the resources to continue to turn our bicyclic peptide technology into important new treatment options for patients,” said Dr Kevin Lee, Bicycle Therapeutics’ CEO. “We are grateful for the strong support from our investors as we move BT1718 rapidly towards the clinic and continue to advance our other preclinical programmes, that have the potential to treat cancer and other debilitating diseases.”

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