Bicycle raises £40M to take cancer drugs into the clinic

An aerial view of Babraham Research Campus, where Bicycle Therapeutics is based--Courtesy of Babraham Research Campus

Bicycle Therapeutics has returned to its big name backers for £40 million ($51 million) to fund the advance of cancer candidates into the clinic. The round equips Bicycle to find out how its targeted, tumor-penetrating delivery vehicles fare when administered to patients with solid tumors.

New investor Vertex Ventures led the series B with support from fellow newcomers Cambridge Innovation Capital and Longwood Fund. The rest of the list of investors has a more familiar look. Novartis Venture Fund, GlaxoSmithKline’s SR One, SV Life Sciences and Atlas Venture all returned for the Series B. Atlas and Novartis were the founding investors in Bicycle, while SR One and SVLS came on board as seed backers in 2010.

Bicycle’s ability to retain the support of these backers while bringing on board new investors has enabled it to dial up its fundraising ambitions. The Series B total is double what Bicycle raised last time around. That reflects Bicycle’s evolution into a clinical-phase biotech and its success in hitting its objectives to date.

Lead candidate BT1718 is due to enter the clinic the year. And Bicycle plans to select a second candidate to take into human trials over the next six months, too. That means Bicycle has stuck to the timelines it set itself when it last raised cash in 2014. Back then, Bicycle said the goal was to get a lead candidate into the clinic by the middle of 2017 and have a second asset trailing close behind.

Bicycle has disclosed the most detail about BT1718. The candidate combines an MT1-targeting Bicycle and a cytotoxic payload. Bicycles are small compounds designed to outperform antibodies by delivering more of the payload to the target while minimizing healthy tissue exposure. In the case of BT1718, the Bicycle is designed to hustle the payload quickly into tumors and bind to MT1. Expression of MT1 is linked to poor prognosis owing to its role in cell invasion and migration.

Preclinical tests suggest the approach may deliver 10 times the toxin while exposing healthy tissue to the payload for 30-fold less time compared to antibody-drug conjugates. The data build on the initial Bicycle scientific work performed by British biotech pioneer Sir Greg Winter and others. And they have enabled the biotech to keep pulling in money while also landing a deal worth up to $1 billion with AstraZeneca.