Bicycle Therapeutics names Pfizer rare disease chief as CEO

Bicycle Therapeutics has become the latest biotech to convince a Big Pharma R&D chief to jump ship for the chance to lead a startup. The R&D chief in question is Kevin Lee, who took over as CEO of the British biotech this week after spending the previous three years leading rare disease research at Pfizer ($PFE).

Bicycle Therapeutics CEO Kevin Lee

Lee is credited with playing a central role in establishing a rare disease strategy and implementing a gene therapy game plan during his time at Pfizer. The position also gave him responsibility for 20 of the Big Pharma's pipeline programs. Having swapped Big Pharma for little biotech, Lee will now have to adjust to managing a narrower pipeline in which each asset is critical to the fate of the firm. As it stands, Bicycle is better known for its big-name founders and backers, plus the scientific interest of its bicyclic peptides, than the specifics of its drug development plans.

Sir Greg Winter, the monoclonal antibody pioneer who set up Cambridge Antibody Technology and Domantis, helped to found Bicycle. And since then Astellas Venture Management, Atlas Venture, GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) SR One, Novartis ($NVS) Venture Fund and SV Life Sciences have provided funding. Lee's task is to turn this potential into an early-phase pipeline. "His experience in translating emerging science into innovative drugs will be invaluable as we apply our product platform to create a pipeline of new therapeutics," Bicycle Chairman Andrew Sandham said in a statement.

Oncology is near the top of Bicycle's list of therapeutic priorities, although it also sees applications for its technology in the treatment of respiratory, inflammatory and ophthalmology diseases. The idea behind the whole R&D agenda is to make use of the properties of bicyclic peptides, which are 100-fold smaller than antibodies but, according to Bicycle, share the affinity and specificity of the larger molecules. Bicycle is hoping the small size will translate into speedier penetration of tumors, particularly of the solid variety, and as such result in the delivery of larger therapeutic payloads.

- read the release (PDF)