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20 May, 2022 - 16:55 By Tony Quested

Bicycle Therapeutics plans jobs surge both sides of the Atlantic

Bicycle Therapeutics revealed a double power play on both sides of the Atlantic after showcasing its new Cambridge headquarters at Granta Park.

Chief executive Kevin Lee and chair Pierre Legault laid out bold expansion plans for operations in the UK and US as the life science doyen embarks on a golden era and looks to swell headcount by more than 30 per cent in the next seven months.

Bicycle is already close to 180 employees – around 125 of them in the UK and 55 in America. By the end of the year it expects to be closer to 250. And as Legault told dignitaries at the opening ceremony, the company has ambitions to move into a new US site as well.

Its current US base is in Lexington Massachusetts, northwest of Boston, and is where the first shot of the American Revolutionary War was fired.

Legault revealed that a new US flagship would seek to optimise the life science gravitas of the Greater Boston cluster, just as the business was leveraging Cambridge brainpower in the UK.

US real estate giant BioMed Realty lured Bicycle from Babraham into the new Granta Park building and persuaded Jeff Bezos’ anti-ageing technology trailblazer – Altos Labs – to take even more space right next door in the renovated Portway Building. Altos, which starts life with $3 billion in its coffers, will also soon be hitting its straps although it is not yet ready to reveal precise hire numbers.

With a UK debate raging about the respective benefits of home and office working, Bicycle has fitted out its new HQ accordingly, creating a home from home for its people.

A state-of-the art games room and edge-of-tech reading, easy listening and other breakout areas are bonuses to the airy and expertly fitted out labs, offices and refreshment facilities.

For the uninitiated, the company is developing a novel class of small, chemically synthesised medicines called Bicycles, initially targeting cancers. Some patients on the earliest trials are already said to be in remission.

But the vision is much broader. Through collaborations with AstraZeneca, Oxurion, Innovate UK, the Dementia Discovery Fund and Ionis, Bicycle works with companies that have deep therapeutic expertise outside of oncology to enable the business to more efficiently develop novel medicines for patients in other disease areas.

Co-founder and Nobel Prizewinner Sir Greg Winter, who gave the keynote address at the opening ceremony, was typically honest in his assessment of the toil in the labs; the highs along the highway and the bumps in the road before Bicycle’s Eureka moment. Co-founder Christian Heinis told me later that the end result was worth the figurative blood, sweat and tears.

Serial Cambridge life science entrepreneur Dr Andy Richards, who chairs some of our finest biotechs, is not someone who is easily impressed – but he heaped praise on the founders and the business they helped fashion.

Dr Richards told me: “Bicycle Therapeutics is a totemically important biotech company to both the Cambridge ecosystem and to UK plc – and one that has made that successful transition to being a NASDAQ-quoted public company whilst still retaining its intellectual and corporate heart here in Cambridge. 

“Building on the visionary creative thinking of Sir Greg Winter and Christian Heinis it has established a world-leading platform that defines a new therapeutic modality – neither small molecule nor antibody – pulling on the advantages of both and with wide potential applicability across medicine and in almost all therapeutic areas. 

“The productivity of the discovery engine is a real strength but the challenge, as with all 'platform to product' ventures, comes in choosing the right targets and the right product profiles and then prosecuting the right products through to patients in the most suitable clinical trials – and all under the gaze of public market scrutiny where access to capital becomes a key success factor to be able to pursue a broad pipeline.

“Biology is complicated and the unexpected often happens in clinical studies, but with such a radical new modality the 'unknown unknowns' are always present, so maintaining the balance of pipeline and continually learning gives the best chance of success. 

“Navigating through these challenges necessitates, bold decisions, resolute leadership and a great team – qualities that Kevin Lee and his executive continue to demonstrate. The promise is immense both to medicine and patients, and for our economy this is 'the one' whose continuing independence really matters.“

• Image courtesy of Bicycle Therapeutics

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