Bicycle Therapeutics, a small British biotech that does its research and development in Lexington, will receive $30 million up front under a deal it struck with Swiss drug giant Roche’s Genentech subsidiary.

Bicycle plans to work with Genentech to discover, develop, and market treatments that take advantage of the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The biotech is working on a new class of small chemically synthesized medicines based on bicyclic peptide technology. Genentech brings expertise in immuno-oncology drugs and marketing muscle.

Founded in 2009, Bicycle has reached deals with other drug makers, including the global British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Bioverativ. But this collaboration features the biggest publicly announced upfront payment, the biotech said Tuesday.


If the partnership reaches certain milestones for developing and marketing drugs, Bicycle is eligible for a total payment of $1.7 billion from Genetech.

Bicycle is based in Cambridge, England, and has 74 employees, including 28 in Lexington.

Kevin Lee, chief executive of Bicycle, said the latest collaboration recognizes the potential of his firm’s technology, “which allows us to specifically direct immune cell simulators and other payloads to tumors in a highly targeted manner.”

Dr. James Sabry, global head of pharma partnering for Roche, said that the partners hope to create a “new wave of immunotherapy options” for patients.

Roche acquired Genentech, a pioneering South San Francisco-based biotech with three blockbuster oncology drugs, in 2009 for $47 billion.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jonathan.saltzman@globe.com