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Cancer Research UK to fund clinical trial of Bicycle Therapeutics immuno-oncology candidate

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Bicycle Therapeutics has announced a second collaboration with Cancer Research UK, which will fund a clinical study of an immuno-oncology candidate.

The Babraham Research Campus-based biotechnology company is developing a new class of therapeutics based on its proprietary bicyclic peptide (Bicycle) technology.

Bicycle Therapeutics at Babraham Research Campus. (26663200)
Bicycle Therapeutics at Babraham Research Campus. (26663200)

Its candidate BT7401 will be funded and sponsored through a phase IIa clinical study by Cancer Research UK, which said the molecule had the potential to help many patients who stop responding to checkpoint inhibitors.

Dr Kevin Lee, CEO of Bicycle, said: “The modular nature of the Bicycle platform enables a number of opportunities to generate new therapeutics that could address unmet need in oncology and other serious diseases.

“This new collaboration marks yet another initiative designed to help us bring a potentially important Bicycle-based therapy to patients more efficiently.

“We are excited to extend our relationship with Cancer Research UK by collaborating with them on BT7401.

“Cancer Research UK is a partner of choice, with a broad network of collaborators and extensive expertise in cancer treatment.

“Through our collaboration, we believe we will be able to characterise the biologic and therapeutic profile of BT7401, which we’re pleased to add to our growing portfolio of novel immuno-oncology assets.”

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK's director of drug development, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering again with Bicycle, building on our continuing relationship.

An advantage of Bicycles compared to antibodies
An advantage of Bicycles compared to antibodies

“Based on the preclinical data, we believe that BT7401 could offer improved anti-tumor activity with fewer side effects compared with antibody-based approaches, which so far have been limited by toxicity.

“Looking to the future, we believe BT7401 has the potential to open up new treatment options for the large numbers of patients who stop responding to checkpoint inhibitors, and we look forward to working with Bicycle in this new endeavor.”

Bicycles are fully synthetic short peptides that are constrained with small molecule scaffolds, forming two stabilising loops.

BT7401 is a chemically synthesised, multivalent small molecule agonist of CD137, which means it binds and activates the receptor.

CD137, also known as tumour necrosis factor receptor 9 (TNFR9), is expressed on activated T cells, regulatory T cells, B cells, myeloid cells and activated natural killer cells.

Previous programs that used antibodies to agonise CD137 have shown strong, durable anti-tumour effects, but have been limited by severe liver toxicity in clinical trials.

Preliminary toxicology studies suggest BT7401, which is made up of Bicycles connected by stable linkers through a central hinge, could overcome this limitation.

BT7401 has also demonstrated what Bicycle called “significant pharmacologic activity” in preclinical models.

CRUK’s Centre for Drug Development will pay for the development of BT7401 from current preclinical studies through the completion of a Phase IIa trial, but Bicycle will retain the right to advance the BT7401 program further.

At that point an undisclosed payment split between cash and equity, success-based milestones and royalty payments would be made to Cancer Research UK.

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