Startups, UK Biotech, Venture Capital

Bicycle Therapeutics banks a $52M B round for the next leg of the long R&D journey ahead

A trans-Atlantic biotech with one foot in Cambridge, UK and another planted in Cambridge, MA has raised close to $52 million as it looks to beef up its staff and steer a range of its uniquely designed drug conjugates into the clinic.

Bicycle Therapeutics won backing from a long list of marquee investors: Vertex Ventures led the round with help from new investors Cambridge Innovation Capital and Christophe Westphal’s Longwood Fund. Bicycle’s existing investors – Novartis Venture Fund, GlaxoSmithKline’s SROne, SVLS and Atlas Venture — all came back for the B round.

Their money will go into early-stage work on drugs like BT1718 — which targets Membrane Type 1 Matrix Metalloproteinase, or MT1- MTP, expressed on tumor cells. These drugs are supposed to drop a toxic payload right on target — a familiar concept that Bicycle has a fresh twist on.

Bicycle’s peptide platform looks to create a new class of therapeutic that combines some of the best aspects of different kinds of treatments. They want the specificity of an antibody, the penetration of a small molecule in tumors and an adjustable half-life to make them extremely potent for a brief period of time — laying waste to tumor cells before being rapidly cleared from the body.

Kevin Lee

That’s a tall order. But Bicycle didn’t get rolling yesterday, either. CEO Kevin Lee, a Pfizer vet, came on board in 2015, a year after a $32 million A round and 6 years after the company got started.

“Bicycle was given the luxury of time to develop the platform,” Lee tells me. And now it has more money to enjoy the luxury of taking several initial shots on goal at one time.

“We don’t want the company to live and die on one molecule,” says Lee, so the plan is to take a number of their molecules into the clinic — just how many and how long a runway they’ll have is yet to be decided.

At the same time, there’s more room on the platform for additional non-cancer partnerships like the one it struck with AstraZeneca on respiratory diseases last year, with a tally of upfront plus milestones that range around the $1 billion mark.

There will also be a bigger staff. Lee says he plans to increase the size of the cancer research crew and business development team in Cambridge, MA, adding to the American accent of what has been a primarily British biotech.

Further down the road Lee would like to consider the possibilities of an IPO, but there’s a lot of research work to be done before anyone starts calculating the range on a share price.


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