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EPFL spin-off Bicycle Therapeutics floats on Nasdaq

A bicyclic peptide (white) © C. Heinis/EPFL 2017

A bicyclic peptide (white) © C. Heinis/EPFL 2017

EPFL spin-off Bicycle Therapeutics carried out an IPO this past Wednesday and raised $60.6 million. The proceeds will be used to conduct further clinical trials of its cancer drugs. That makes Bicycle Therapeutics the third EPFL spin-off to go public, following in the footsteps of Logitech and Biocartis.

The $60.6 million of fresh capital that Bicycle Therapeutics raised during its IPO – the third by an EPFL spin-off – will help the young firm continue performing clinical trials of its new class of cancer medicines.

“Not many European companies go public. But EPFL now counts three listed startups that were founded to market technology developed at the School,” says Hervé Lebret, head of EPFL’s startup unit. “These exits are the icing on the cake, since EPFL startups usually end up being acquired by other companies, as we saw with Faceshift, Lemoptix and most recently Darix.” Since being founded in the UK in 2009, Bicycle has raised nearly $116 million.

Bicycle Therapeutics develops cancer drugs that are made from chains of amino acids, called peptides, which form in two loops – hence the company’s name – in order to stabilize their geometry. They are unique in that they can bind to just about any biological structure, including proteins, and change their function. And because they can act on diseased cells while leaving healthy cells intact, they can attach to the protein of a tumor cell, for example, and prevent it from growing without affecting the neighboring tissue. Bicycle’s drugs have a vast range of possible therapeutic applications: cancer; respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases; psychiatric disorders; and hemophilia. The company is based in Cambridge, UK, and leverages technology licensed from EPFL.

Christian Heinis, today an EPFL professor, came up with the idea while performing post-doc research at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge . He developed a molecular structure that enables proteins to form bonds similar to those of antibodies, but much smaller, so that they can be diffused through tissue efficiently and produced by chemical synthesis. Heinis also worked with Sir Gregory Winter, a retired University of Cambridge researcher who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to develop a method for isolating bicyclical peptides that can bind effectively to a clinically important range of target cells. Heinis is currently continuing his research at EPFL’s Laboratory of Therapeutic Proteins and Peptides (LPPT).