UK biotech Bicycle Therapeutics has raised an impressive £40 million to help advance its lead candidate, cancer drug BT1718, into the clinic trials later this year.

BT1718 is the first example of the firm’s Bicycle Drug Conjugate (BDC) technology, in which toxic chemical payloads are targeted specifically to malignant tumours, minimising systemic toxin exposure through renal clearance.

The therapy targets Membrane Type 1 Matrix Metalloproteinase (MT1-MTP), which is highly expressed in many solid tumours, including triple negative breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, and is expected to enter the clinic in 2017 in partnership with Cancer Research UK.

The cash, raised in a round of Series B financing, will also fund additional pipeline programmes through early clinical development, the first of which will be selected in the second half of this year, the firm noted.

“This financing represents an important validation of our approach, while providing Bicycle with the resources to continue to advance our pipeline and translate our bicyclic peptide technology into important new treatment options for patients,” noted Dr Kevin Lee, Bicycle’s chief executive.

Back in December, Bicycle signed a deal worth potentially $1 billion with AstraZeneca to develop bicyclic peptides - or ‘bicycles’ across respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic disease targets.

Under the deal, Bicycle will identify ‘bicycles’ for an undisclosed number of targets using its proprietary product platform. AstraZeneca is then responsible for further development and commercialisation of any promising candidates.