AstraZeneca and Bicycle Therapeutics have entered into a deal to develop bicyclic peptides that could net the latter firm more than $1 billion if all pre-specified targets are met.

According to the Cambridge, UK-headquartered biotech, Bicycle molecules exhibit an affinity and target specificity usually associated with antibodies, but have a low molecular weight that allows rapid and deep tissue penetration, enabling more efficient tumour targeting.

Furthermore, it says their peptidic nature 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.

Under the deal, Bicycle will identify Bicycles for an undisclosed number of targets spanning respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases using its proprietary product platform. AstraZeneca is responsible for further development and commercialisation of any promising candidates.

Financial specifics of the deal weren't revealed, but Bicycle said it could be eligible for over $1 billion in payments if all milestones are achieved, as well as royalties on marketed products.

"By combining the expertise and strengths of AstraZeneca and Bicycle Therapeutics, we are confident this collaboration will result in clinically important advances for patients suffering from respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases," noted Menelas Pangalos, executive vice president, Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit and Global Business Development at AZ.