Genentech, a subsidiary of the Roche Group (OTCMKTS: RHHBY), is betting big on a collaboration effort with Bicycle Therapeutics plc (NASDAQ: BCYC). The exclusive collaboration agreement between the two biotechnology companies hopes to develop and commercialize Bicycle-based immuno-oncology therapies against multiple targets. Genetech will pay $30 million upfront to Bicycle Therapeutics with a potential $1.7 billion in milestone payments.

You might have guessed this based on the name, but Bicycles are Bicycle Therapeutics’ trademark platform. They are fully synthetic short peptides constrained with small-molecule scaffolds to form two loops that stabilize their structural geometry. This constraint facilitates target binding with high affinity and selectivity, making Bicycles attractive candidates for drug development.

The platform has gathered a great deal of support and partnerships for Bicycle Therapeutics. The company was founded in 2009, and has formed Bicycle-focused collaboration efforts with AstraZeneca, Oxurion, Innovate UK, Cancer Research UK, and the Dementia Discovery Fund, which range from ophthalmology to neuroscience.

Bicycle Therapeutics will be responsible for discovery research and early pre-clinical development up to candidate selection, and Genentech will be responsible for further development and commercialization upon the selection of candidates. None of its wholly-owned oncology pipeline, including its immuno-oncology candidates, are included in the collaboration.

Almost like clockwork, just last year in February 2019 Genentech purchased the global rights to IL-15 cytokine therapeutics for $120 million from Xencor, Inc., which is intended to be used with a wide range of combination agents due to its proposed mechanism of activating tumor-killing immune cells.

Genentech agreed to commercialize the medicines worldwide, and Xencor had the option to co-promote in the United States. Additionally, the companies began a two-year research program to discover new IL-15 drug candidates, including ones targeted to specific immune cell populations. The companies will share development costs and profits.

It seems as if Genentech is taking great lengths to bolster its cancer and immuno-oncology product portfolio. And based on our research just this past December, that might seem like a pretty safe bet.

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