CRUK research arm starts first-in-class Bicycle Therapeutics trial in cancer

CRUK will work on the phase 1 test but Bicycle maintains the rights to do further work on its med

British research charity Cancer Research UK has teamed up with Bicycle Therapeutics, itself seeing the ink dry on a major deal with AstraZeneca this month, to trial BT1718 in advanced tumors.

The phase 1 will see CRUK’s R&D unit, known as the Centre for Drug Development, sponsor and fund the early tests for BT1718, originally developed by biotech Bicycle Therapeutics.

The med BT1718 targets Membrane Type 1 Matrix Metalloproteinase (MT1-MTP), which is expressed in a number of solid tumours, including triple negative breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

In preclinical tests, Bicycle’s lead drug conjugate hustled cytotoxic payloads into tumors, limiting systemic exposure.

Dr. Udai Banaji, principal investigator for the phase 1 trial, said: “I’m very excited to be involved in the first clinical study of BT1718. Based on the impressive preclinical data, I look forward to evaluating the clinical utility of BT1718, the first of a new class of agents that specifically targets tumour cells using a bicyclic peptide linked to an anticancer agent.”

Under the deal, financial terms of which have not been disclosed, Bicycle holds on to the rights to push on with the BT1718 programme, at which point an “undisclosed payment split between cash and equity, success based milestones and royalty payments” would be made to CRUK, the company said in a statement.

Former Pfizer exec Dr. Kevin Lee, now CEO of Bicycle Therapeutics, added: “Through this important collaboration we aim to advance BT1718 through Phase I trials, generating a robust dataset to drive the programme forward.

“We’re excited to have developed this innovative relationship with Cancer Research UK that allows us access to their extensive network of collaborators and world class expertise to fully explore the potential of this new and transformative class of treatment for cancer patients.”

This comes two weeks after Bicycle signed a pact, potentially worth around $1 billion in biobucks, with AstraZeneca to develop bicyclic peptides.

This deal tasks Cambridge, U.K.-based Bicycle with identifying bicyclic peptides against an undisclosed number of targets put forward by AstraZeneca. Bicycle will then pass responsibility for further development of the candidates to its Big Pharma partner.

Interest in the peptides stems from evidence they combine the affinity and target specificity of antibodies with the molecular weight of small molecules. In oncology, Bicycle’s in-house area of focus, this combination gives bicyclic peptides the potential to penetrate tumors faster and in greater numbers than antibodies can achieve.

CRUK may not always be that well known in the R&D space, but one its more recent and notable wins was the approval of Janssen’s prostate med Zytiga (abiraterone), which it helped work on in the early stages of development.