AstraZeneca will partner with Bicycle Therapeutics to develop respiratory, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease treatments based on Bicycle’s proprietary bicyclic peptide (Bicycle®) product platform through a collaboration that the Cambridge, U.K., startup said today could generate for it more than $1 billion.

Under the collaboration, Bicycle has agreed to identify Bicycle bicyclic peptides for an undisclosed number of targets specified by AstraZeneca. The pharma giant has agreed to oversee further development and product commercialization.

Bicycles are a new class of small molecule designed to exhibit the affinity and target specificity typically associated with antibodies, only in a small-molecule format intended to enabling rapid tissue penetration and flexible routes of administration. According to the company, the peptidic nature of Bicycles provides a “tuneable” pharmacokinetic half-life and a renal route of clearance, avoiding the liver and gastrointestinal tract toxicities often seen with other drug modalities.

Bicycle was formed to commercialize research initiated at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K., by the company’s scientific founders, Sir Gregory Winter, Ph.D., and Professor Christian Heinis, Ph.D. The company is headquartered in Cambridge, U.K., with a U.S. subsidiary in Cambridge, MA.

Bicycle Therapeutics CEO Kevin Lee, Ph.D., MBA, said in a statement that the collaboration will expand the company’s areas of therapeutic focus to indications outside of its core focus in oncology. The company’s lead molecule, BT1718, is designed to treat solid tumors by targeting membrane type 1-matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MT1-MMP).

AstraZeneca’s core therapeutic areas consist of cardio and metabolic diseases, oncology, infection and neuroscience, and respiratory and autoimmune disease—a category that includes inflammation.

Should all Bicycles envisioned under the collaboration be developed, AstraZeneca would pay Bicycle the $1 billion-plus—which would consist of an upfront payment, R&D funding, as well as payments tied to achieving development, regulatory, and commercialization milestones.

AstraZeneca also agreed to pay Bicycle royalties on sales of products resulting from the collaboration.

“The bicycle platform expands our drug discovery capabilities and enables us to broaden the range of targets we can prosecute across a range of disease indications,” stated Menelas Pangalos, evp, Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit and Global Business Development at AstraZeneca.

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