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Winner’s spotlight: Bicycle Therapeutics

Key learnings:

  • Bicycle Therapeutics was named Life Science Growth Company of the Year (over three years old) at the Biotech and Money Assembly and Awards Gala Dinner 2017.
  • The company successfully closed a £40 million Series B funding round this year, with financing from both new and existing investors.
  • The company is now focused on executing its strategy and developing its first-in-class technology.
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On 14th September 2017, the life science and investment community gathered for the annual Biotech and Money Assembly and Awards Gala Dinner, where Cambridge-based Bicycle Therapeutics was named winner in the Life Science Growth Company of the Year category for companies over three years old. The awards recognise organisations’ and individuals’ achievements between 1 June 2016 and 1 June 2017, a period that has seen Bicycle Therapeutics reach several notable milestones. Dr Kevin Lee, chief executive officer, and Dr Michael Skynner, Vice President of Operations, sat down with Biotech and Money to discuss Bicycle Therapeutics’ development thus far, as well as its plans for the future.

Strategic collaborations in oncology and beyond

Bicycle Therapeutics is developing first-in-class medicines based on constrained bicycle peptides, known as Bicycles®. The company’s primary focus for the application of its proprietary Bicycle platform is oncology, but it is also collaborating with external partners to see how its technology could be applied in other fields. Skynner (pictured collecting the Biotech and Money Award) says: “The core purpose of the company is oncology but the amazing part of the technology invented by Sir Gregory Winter – the architect of other companies like Cambridge Antibody Technology and Domantis – is that the Bicycle platform can be applied across all therapeutic areas.”

This includes a partnership with AstraZeneca to identify and develop Bicycles for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, and respiratory diseases, a collaboration with ThromboGenics that focuses on the platform’s ophthalmology applications, and, most recently, a research collaboration with Bioverativ for the discovery, development, and commercialisation of Bicycles to treat blood disorders such as haemophilia and sickle cell disease.

Bicycle Therapeutics is working with Cancer Research UK on its lead oncology programme: the development of BT1718, its lead molecule or Bicycle Drug Conjugate (BDC), for the treatment of advanced solid tumours. The support provided through the partnership, such as access to clinical infrastructure and premier oncology clinicians in the UK, will help Bicycle Therapeutics to expedite the clinical development process, explains Lee. The company hopes to have clinical trial application (CTA) approval by the end of this year.

For Skynner, these partnerships are among his proudest achievements for Bicycle Therapeutics to date. “Our background is in pharma, but it’s nice when your former peers agree with the quality of the science, the quality of the team, the quality of the opportunity, and actually want to work with you to make those medicines,” he says.

Series B success for the next stages of development

Following on from a Series A funding round in October 2014, Bicycle Therapeutics announced the successful closure of a £40 million Series B financing round in June 2017. The funding round included existing investors Atlas Venture, Novartis Venture Fund, SROne, and SVLS, as well as three new investors: Cambridge Innovation Capital, Longwood Fund, and Vertex Ventures HC. Lee views the company’s financing rounds as marking three different stages in its development. Phase one, the seed phase, was about establishing the technology, he explains. The next stage, Series A, focused on establishing the company’s strategy and bringing in the team, while the Series B financing round will centre on working with the team to deliver on the company’s technology and execute its strategy.

“Series B is the true test of the technology. You have to remember that we are the only company developing this technology for the clinic, so it’s quite an important phase for the company to take these molecules forward,” says Lee. “There are not 10 Bicycles, there is only us. We feel it’s really important, for multiple reasons, that we take these forward and see what they can do.”

Gaining investment traction through teamwork and focus

While Bicycle Therapeutics’ technology has wide application potential across a number of therapeutic areas, establishing a focused strategy helped to facilitate the Series B financing process. For Lee, having a clear focus is a vital component for a successful financing round. “You have to be able to articulate a clear description of value creation, which predominantly in our area is the creation of new medicines in areas of unmet need,” he explains. “I think you can’t necessarily get traction just with a good idea unless you can articulate how that idea will actually realise value creation.”

Aside from a clear strategy and the first-in-class nature of the technology itself, the quality of the team at Bicycle Therapeutics is identified as key to attracting investment in the company. “I think every investor looks at the quality of the team,” says Skynner. “We have a fantastic team that is very experienced in drug discovery, expert in oncology, and that is well positioned to take the molecules forward and make a difference for patients.”

This was bolstered further by the responsiveness of the team throughout the financing round. Skynner explains: “During the due diligence process we also had a lot of positive commentary about how responsive the team were. The ability to respond to questions and queries in very short order made the whole process move very quickly from JP Morgan [Healthcare Conference, January 2017], where we kicked off, to funding, which came through in late May.”

Lee also cites Winters’ guidance as critical in driving the company forward. “He’s more than the founding scientist; he has been very supportive and helps us think about the IP, about the business side, about the investor side,” he adds. External partners have also played a role in facilitating the company’s development, such as law firm Dechert and research and development service provider WuXi AppTec.

Building on its foundations

Lee is particularly proud of the quality of the team Bicycle Therapeutics has built up, and believes it is the strength of the company’s science that has helped attract talent to the firm. “What we have at Bicycle is something quite bold: people who are experienced enough to know the technology is differentiated, who can actually see the transformational potential, understand the risk, and are willing to take that risk,” he adds.

The company has made a number of key appointments over the last 18 months, including Rosamond Deegan as President and Chief Business Officer, Stephen Hoffman as Chairman of the Board of Directors, Peter Park as Vice President of Oncology, Lee Kalowski as Chief Financial Officer, Maria Koehler as Chief Medical Officer, and Nicholas Keen as Chief Scientific Officer.

Bicycle Therapeutics has offices in both Cambridge, UK, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the US. Leveraging its dual locations and maximising communication between the two sites is on the agenda for the company. With its Chief Financial Officer based in North America, if the firm were to list it would expect to do so in the US, although it is determined to retain its UK heritage.

Meanwhile, Bicycle Therapeutics’ lead molecule and its variants are providing much for the company to be getting on with in the near term. “The next 18 months is really more hard work to deliver on the promise we’ve established now,” says Lee. “We’ve done all the preparatory work, now we’ve got to get to that finishing tape.”

Take a look at the full list of winners at this year's Biotech and Money Assembly and Awards Gala Dinner

Louise Fordham
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