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Bicycles Therapeutics enters dementia discovery with venture capital fund

Ambitious UK biotech expands research scope

UK biotech rising star Bicycle Therapeutics has announced a new alliance with the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) to use its novel platform to develop new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, including dementia.

The last decade has been characterised by a disheartening string of late-stage drug failures in Alzheimer’s disease, and this year alone has seen two major programmes crash in the phase 3 stage.

Researchers working in the field know that new approaches must be taken against Alzheimer’s beyond the prevailing beta amyloid and tau targeting drugs, and other targets in neuroscience are also being explored.

As a venture capital fund, the DDF is taking a new fresh approach to research in the field, and is looking for novel mechanisms and molecules to unlock progress.

The DDF is supported by funding from seven leading pharma companies (Biogen, Lilly, GSK, J&J, Otsuka (Astex), Pfizer and Takeda), and many non-profit organisations such as the Gates Foundation, Alzheimer’s Research UK as well as the UK government.

A special DDF panel of neuroscientists and experts select promising novel dementia therapies, and the venture fund has now signed a deal with Bicycle Therapeutics.

The biotech’s proprietary technology is its Bicycle molecules, synthetic short peptides that aim to combine the pharmacology of biologics with the manufacturing and pharmacokinetic properties of small molecules.

This is particularly relevant in neuroscience, where getting drugs past the blood brain barrier is just one of the drug targeting conundrums researchers must overcome.

Bicycle plans to develop its Bicycle molecules to modulate the activity of proteins implicated in the progression of dementia.

Kevin Lee

Bicycle Therapeutics' Kevin Lee

“This is a landmark collaboration for Bicycle,” said Kevin Lee, chief executive of Bicycle Therapeutics. “Fifty million people worldwide live with dementia, yet there is no cure for these terrible diseases. Despite the huge burden of these illnesses on individuals, families and society, conventional approaches have so far provided limited benefit. We believe our Bicycles bring a fresh approach to this area, and we are thrilled to work with DDF to apply our proprietary technology to the potential treatment of dementia.”

The new alliance will see the firm identify Bicycle molecules that bind to clinically-validated dementia targets.

If promising lead compounds are identified, Bicycle will own the resulting IP and, with DDF, have the option to jointly establish a new company to develop those compounds.

“Bicycle has developed a unique screening platform that has shown on multiple occasions it can help identify differentiated drug candidates for a diverse range of targets that have historically been considered intractable to conventional small-molecule approaches,” said Tetsuyuki Maruyama, chief scientific advisor at DDF.

“We are delighted to be working with the Bicycle team to apply this unique technology to some of the most challenging CNS diseases.”

The company’s venture into CNS represents a clearing broadening of its drug discovery ambitions, with cancer being its focus so far. Its lead product candidate is BT1718, a ‘bicycle drug conjugate’ being developing for numerous potential cancer indications.

Last week the firm announced plans for an IPO on the US Nasdaq, from which it hopes to raise $86m. Bicycle hasn't yet produced proof-of-concept data for its platform from human trials, but a phase 1/2 trial of its lead candidate is expected later this year.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

8th May 2019

From: Research

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