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Bicycle Therapeutics opens new headquarters on Granta Park





Bicycle Therapeutics officially opened its new base at the Portway Building on Granta Park on Friday.

Kevin Lee, chief executive officer, Bicycle Therapeutics, in the Portway Building. Picture: Keith Heppell
Kevin Lee, chief executive officer, Bicycle Therapeutics, in the Portway Building. Picture: Keith Heppell

The pioneering clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company has taken 45,000 sq ft on a 10-year lease.

Bicycle Therapeutics was formed in 2009 and, based on the groundbreaking work conceived in the laboratory of Sir Greg Winter with the help of Professor Christian Heinis, the company is pioneering the development of bicyclic peptides, or Bicycles – a novel class of versatile, chemically synthesised medicines.

Bicycles are fully synthetic short peptides constrained with small molecule scaffolds to form two loops that stabilise their structural geometry. This constraint facilitates target binding with high affinity and selectivity, making Bicycles attractive candidates for drug development.

In 2019 the company was listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in the US. It has raised a total of $342.9m in funding over 12 rounds: the latest – for $175m – was raised in October last year, from a post-IPO equity round.

From left outside the Portway Building are Pierre Legault, chairman; Sir Greg Winter, co-founder and director; and Kevin Lee, chief executive officer. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left outside the Portway Building are Pierre Legault, chairman; Sir Greg Winter, co-founder and director; and Kevin Lee, chief executive officer. Picture: Keith Heppell

Guests including investor Andy Richards and Dr Jane Osbourn, chair of Mogrify, gathered in the foyer where Kevin Lee, the company’s CEO since 2015, welcomed the guests to the new premises.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Bicycle Therapeutics’ new headquarters,” he said. “It’s an honour to see so many friends, and I’m really humbled by the support you’ve given us for the last few years, and I’m really looking forward to showing you around our new digs.

“It’s never easy to develop a new therapeutic modality and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. There’s people walking on this Earth that would not be doing so if not for Bicycle Therapeutics, and our new premises allows us to do what we do in a bigger and better way.”

He gave way to Pierre Legault, the chair of Bicycle’s board of directors, who noted that the company now has “five molecules in development”.

The new Bicycle Therapeutics labs on Granta Park. Picture: Keith Heppell
The new Bicycle Therapeutics labs on Granta Park. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We are very lucky to have the support of very good investors in Europe and also in the US,” he said. “The market is very difficult but we will endure because we have great leadership, great staff and a great innovation pipeline and, more importantly, everyone is working very hard and, at the end of the day, it’s about thinking about patients.

“It is my pleasure to introduce the inventor of our Bicycle, the Nobel Prize winner, Sir Greg Winter.”

Sir Greg briefed his audience – many of whom were also of course fans – on how chemistry evolved in the 19th and 20th centuries with small organic chemicals and then moved into “new drugs based on antibody molecules to treat non-inflammatory diseases such as cancer” this century.

“Antibodies do have advantages but also disadvantages,” he said. “The disadvantages include their large size which limits penetration into tissues, so we tried to make them smaller but that didn’t solve the problem.

“The solution is not to start with the antibodies but to start with the chemicals... We solved the problem by coming the other way.

Guests at the opening of the new Bicycle Therapeutics headquarters on Granta Park, May 18, 2022. Picture: Mike Scialom
Guests at the opening of the new Bicycle Therapeutics headquarters on Granta Park, May 18, 2022. Picture: Mike Scialom

“The second challenge was to find funding.” This came via Atlas Ventures. After a period of time in which Sir Greg said he “tried to keep myself cheerful and optimistic and wait for the sunny uplands”, the breakthrough came.

“Armed Bicycles penetrate deeply into tissues and tumours for their attack, and now some people are seeing remissions and we are looking at other areas, including infectious disease,” he said.

“The company really started taking shape after Kevin Lee started as CEO, and Pierre Legault came in as chairman.”

The audience laughed heartily when Sir Greg added: “We were raising funds against a background of an erratic market and fickle investor expectations.”

He went on: “The technology now has more to do, with cancer and beyond, and I think we have built a really good team.”

Andrew Williamson, managing partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), in conversation with Nobel Prize winnder Sir Greg Winter, co-founder and director at Bicycle Therapeutics. Picture: Mike Scialom
Andrew Williamson, managing partner at Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC), in conversation with Nobel Prize winnder Sir Greg Winter, co-founder and director at Bicycle Therapeutics. Picture: Mike Scialom

After the speeches I spoke with an upbeat Kevin Lee. The transfer from the Babraham Research Campus site is almost complete, explained the CEO. He said that the new site allows Bicycle Therapeutics to expand as progress is made across its oncology pipeline.

“We have 168 people in the company,” Kevin said of the organisation which recenty reported cash and cash equivalents of $407.4m as of March 31, 2022. “There are 112 in the UK, and 56 in Lexington [Massachusetts]. We plan to take the UK headcount up to 165 by the end of the year.”

Bicycle Therapeutics will retain its facility at Babraham’s B900 building and Kevin welcomes the significant additional space at the Portway Building.

“We’re already achieving early clinical success with Phase I trials and we want to be doing more drug prototypes,” he said.

“This is unique technology, no other company on the planet does what we do. It’s a huge opportunity and a huge challenge so there’s lots to do around educating people and also to ensure investment, so it’s a credit to our investors such as CIC and SV Life Sciences that we’ve got funding to the proof of principle.

The new labs at Bicycle Therapeutics on Granta Park. Picture: Keith Heppell
The new labs at Bicycle Therapeutics on Granta Park. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We’re the first Cambridge company to IPO on Nasdaq – you could say Celletch did it, but they’re Slough and we’re Cambridge...

“The IPO is transformational and we have achieved early clinical successes. In terms of development from the original idea to getting to market, we’re two-thirds of the way, and hopefully this will accelerate as we go through the clinical stages.

“Having achieved early clinical success we have an obligation to double down on that and deliver – it’s our obligation to deliver outside of cancer too, and this building gives us the opportunity to do that.”

Bicycle, which was a finalist at the recent Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards 2022, is widening its area of research to include “a new generation of antibiotics, the first in 60 years”.

“First and foremost we are an oncological company,” he adds, “but we have to try and get beyond that.”

From left are Michael Skynner, chief technology officer; Kevin Lee, chief executive officer; and Alistair Milnes, chief operating officer. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left are Michael Skynner, chief technology officer; Kevin Lee, chief executive officer; and Alistair Milnes, chief operating officer. Picture: Keith Heppell

Tackling the effectiveness of antiobiotics – to date, all antibiotics have over time lost effectiveness against their targeted bacteria – is a huge step.

Kevin notes that “you’ve got cheap antibiotics and the reimbursement model is very hard.”

That is about to change, however.

“The government has come up with a subscription model which involves a payment upfront.”

This subscription model is an under-reported world first. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, a two-year assessment jointly supported by the UK government and the Wellcome Trust, concluded in 2016 that there could be 300 million premature deaths by 2050 and $100trn lost to the global economy due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The search for a new generation of antibiotics has begun in earnest and this year the UK adopted the groundbreaking subscription payment model for two new antibiotics. The NHS will pay Pfizer and Shionogi up to £10m a year for 10 years for Fetroja (cefiderocol) and Zavicefta (ceftazidime-avibactam), regardless of how many doses are administered to patients.

“Bacterial infection is a bit like Covid,” notes Kevin. “It starts really small, then it’s everywhere. It’s quite a high bar to get a return, and the subscription model for antibiotics is aspirational. We’re very focused on cancer at the moment.”



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