AstraZeneca sets out on a $1bn 'Bicycle' path

By Dan Stanton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStock/Pilin_Petunyia
Image: iStock/Pilin_Petunyia

Related tags: Pharmacology, Molecule, Protein

AstraZeneca has partnered with Bicycle Therapeutics in a potential $1bn deal to develop a new class of small molecules which have antibody-like properties.

The Anglo-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca will expand its drug discovery capabilities through the collaboration, with Bicycle Therapeutics responsible for identifying bicyclic peptides – or ‘Bicycles’ - for an undisclosed number of targets.

“Bicycles are a new and unique class of small molecular weight medicines. No other companies are currently using this technology for drug development,”​ the Cambridge, UK-based drug delivery firm Bicycle Therapeutics told

According to CEO Kevin Lee, these molecules exhibit antibody-like properties in a small molecule format

“Like antibodies, they are highly potent and exhibit high affinity and target specificity, and the ability to disrupt protein-protein interactions,”​ he said.

“However, their small size enables them to rapidly penetrate tissue and opens up alternative routes of administration. Because of their peptidic nature, - ie., their small size - they are cleared by the kidney, avoiding the liver and gastrointestinal toxicity typically associated with antibodies.”

As such, they can be used as stand-alone therapeutic entities or coupled to deliver a variety of therapeutic or diagnostic agents, and the firm is therefore also involved in developing Bicycle Drug Conjugates which use Bicycle molecules to deliver cytotoxins.

The company’s proprietary technology identifies Bicycles through a phage display platform, Lee added, which generates enormous chemical diversity  - >1015​ unique molecules - through variations in amino acid composition and library design.”

AstraZeneca could pay Bicycle Therapeutics up to $1bn (€930m) in upfront payments, future R&D funding, and development, regulatory and commercialization milestone payments.

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