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Genentech pays $30m upfront to access Bicycle Therapeutic's discovery technology

Collaboration will focus on discovery of immuno-oncology therapies

Roche HQ

Roche subsidiary Genentech has entered a strategic collaboration agreement with UK biotech Bicycle Therapeutics for the discovery of new immuno-oncology therapies.

The agreement will leverage Bicycle’s proprietary bicyclic peptide technology with the aim of developing and ultimately commercialising novel treatments for cancer.

Bicyclic peptides have the targeting power of monoclonal antibodies, although they behave like small molecules due to their ability to penetrate tissues and be delivered at specific doses, as well as their ease of synthesis.

They are also less likely to cause immune reactions compared to antibody drugs and are soluble in water, which means they can be used in a broad range of formulations.

On top of that, the peptides can be directed at a single target, coupled together to combine two functions or act like antibody-drug conjugates with a targeting element linked to a molecular cargo such as a cell-killing compound.

Genentech and Bicycle will work together to explore this novel technology on a wide range of immuno-oncology targets, to potentially overcome the limitations of other modalities.

“Our collaboration with Genentech recognises the potential of Bicycle’s differentiated technology, which allows us to specifically direct immune cell stimulators and other payloads to tumours in a highly targeted manner,” said Kevin Lee, chief executive officer of Bicycle Therapeutics.

“In addition, the flexibility of the Bicycle platform enables rapid exploration of structure-activity relationships to fully optimise candidate molecules,” he added.

Under the terms of the agreement, Bicycle is set to receive $30m upfront from Genentech, with further milestone payments which could total up to $1.7bn.

The collaboration agreement is set to start with a focus on two immuno-oncology targets singled out by Genentech, with the option to choose up to two more targets for a further $10m per extra programme.

Bicycle has previously partnered with AstraZeneca for the use of its technology outside of oncology, where it is looking to develop therapeutics for, primarily, respiratory conditions.

The Cambridge, UK-based biotech also has its own in-house programmes, with a number of candidates in the pipeline. That includes its lead candidate BT1718 which targets MT1-MMP, an enzyme which is expressed on tumour cells.

The drug is currently being tested in a phase 1/2a trial as part of a collaboration with Centre for Drug Development of Cancer Research UK.

Roche has a strong focus on oncology, thanks to its growing cancer drug Tecentriq (atezolizumab), and has previously entered collaboration deals to further its position in the field.

That includes a recent alliance with Illumina on genomic testing for cancer diagnostics, which aims to define a patient’s unique cancer using the genomics systems and leverage the resulting genomic pattern to match optimal treatment, including Roche’s targeted cancer therapy portfolio.

26th February 2020

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