Alexis Borisy

EQRx scores $500M to dri­ve its dis­rup­tive drug pric­ing mod­el and late-stage on­col­o­gy hope­fuls to mar­ket

Near­ly a year in­to its mis­sion of rewrit­ing the rules of drug pric­ing, EQRx has made a few key late-stage pick­ups to speed up its march to mar­ket. With the ball rolling faster than ex­pect­ed, in­vestors are jump­ing on board in droves — and EQRx will soon have to prove if its dis­rup­tive busi­ness mod­el holds wa­ter.

EQRx has bagged a $500 mil­lion Se­ries B — among the largest of its kind in re­cent bio­phar­ma his­to­ry — to con­tin­ue dri­ving its on­col­o­gy and in­flam­ma­to­ry can­di­dates to mar­ket, the com­pa­ny said Mon­day.

The Boston area biotech will use the new trea­sure chest to de­vel­op its four in-li­censed Phase III on­col­o­gy hope­fuls as well as the rest of its pipeline, which the com­pa­ny has not pub­licly dis­closed. Those can­di­dates in­clude PD-L1 an­ti­body sug­e­mal­imab, EGFR in­hibitor au­mol­er­tinib, a PD-1 an­ti­body for­mer­ly dubbed CS1003 and CDK4/6 in­hibitor le­ro­ci­clib.

Once plan­ning to have its first in-house drug can­di­date ready for mar­ket in 2025, EQRx “ac­cel­er­at­ed the whole plan of the com­pa­ny” with li­cens­ing deals signed this year for those four drugs, CEO Alex­is Borisy told End­points News. Now, one or more could be com­mer­cial­ized by 2025, a “hot start” that has re­quired EQRx to ramp up its ef­forts to bring pay­ers and the “glob­al buy­ers’ club” on board its mis­sion to bring rock bot­tom-priced on­col­o­gy and in­flam­ma­to­ry prod­ucts to mar­ket.

The com­po­si­tion of EQRx’s most re­cent round could give some promise to that mis­sion, Borisy said, with in­vestors rang­ing from ven­ture cap­i­tal to “mar­ket lead­ing pay­ers and health sys­tems” the com­pa­ny will like­ly work with to help sell its drugs. EQRx is hop­ing to turn that “down pay­ment” from those pay­ers, who cov­er rough­ly 20% of in­sured pa­tients in the US, in­to large-scale col­lab­o­ra­tions cur­rent­ly in the works, Borisy said.

“It shows that what we’re do­ing re­al­ly res­onates,” Borisy said of the se­ries. “Build­ing a busi­ness at the right mo­ment in time is the hard­est thing to do. This is the right mo­ment in time. Peo­ple get it, they un­der­stand it, and they get that it’s doable to­day.”

EQRx launched in ear­ly 2020 with $200 mil­lion in in­vestor cash to help rewrite the mod­el for drug pric­ing, what Borisy called “re­mak­ing and reengi­neer­ing” the field. The com­pa­ny’s goal is even­tu­al­ly to op­er­ate at scale, us­ing its re­la­tion­ships with pay­ers and health sys­tems to de­vel­op and mar­ket on­col­o­gy and in­flam­ma­to­ry can­di­dates that are as ef­fec­tive as ap­proved drugs with a frac­tion of the price tag.

In two li­cens­ing deals signed since then — one in May to snag le­ro­ci­clib and al­moner­tinib from G1 Ther­a­peu­tics and Han­soh Phar­ma, re­spec­tive­ly, and an­oth­er in Oc­to­ber to pick up sug­e­mal­imab and CS1003  from CStone Ther­a­peu­tics — the com­pa­ny ac­quired four late-stage com­pounds that will test its dis­rup­tive busi­ness mod­el soon­er than ex­pect­ed.

While EQRx has on­ly iden­ti­fied four can­di­dates in its pipeline, the com­pa­ny does have more mol­e­cules on deck, Borisy said, all of them tar­get­ing es­tab­lished mar­kets with pre­mi­um-priced drugs. The biotech has the lofty goal of cut­ting the US health­care sys­tem’s an­nu­al drug spend by 50% to 70% across its tar­get­ed ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas.

For in­flam­ma­to­ry, where EQRx hasn’t dis­closed any can­di­dates, those fo­cus ar­eas will like­ly in­clude some of the most preva­lent dis­eases in the field, Borisy said: rheuma­toid arthri­tis, pso­ri­a­sis, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, etc.

In terms of whether EQRx could look to keep in-li­cens­ing ma­ture can­di­dates to com­ple­ment its in-house mol­e­cules, Borisy said his team would use the same stan­dards to judge what qual­i­fies as “an EQRx drug.”

“For it to be an EQRx drug, it needs to have a clear causal tar­get so that we un­der­stand the bio­chem­istry, the bio­physics, the phar­ma­col­o­gy, of the prod­uct,” Borisy said. “That way we can feel con­fi­dent the prod­uct we are in-li­cens­ing or that we are de­sign­ing meets the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of be­ing equal­ly good or bet­ter (than oth­er prod­ucts on the mar­ket).”

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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A Mer­ck part­ner is sucked in­to the fi­nan­cial quag­mire as key lender calls in a note

Another biotech standing on shaky financial legs has fallen victim to the bears.

Merck partner 4D Pharma has reported that a key lender, Oxford Finance, shoved the UK company into administration after calling in a $14 million loan they couldn’t immediately make good on. Trading in their stock was halted with a market cap that had fallen to a mere £30 million.

“Despite the very difficult prevailing market conditions,” 4D reported on Friday, the biotech had been making progress on finding some new financing and turned to Oxford with an alternative late on Thursday and then again Friday morning.

David Loew (Ipsen)

Ipsen snags an ap­proved can­cer drug in $247M M&A deal as an­oth­er bat­tered biotech sells cheap

You can add Paris-based Ipsen to the list of discount buyers patrolling the penny stock pack for a cheap M&A deal.

The French biotech, which has had plenty of its own problems to grapple with, has swooped in to buy Epizyme $EPZM for $247 million in cash and a CVR with milestones attached to it. Epizyme shareholders, who had to suffer through a painfully soft launch of their EZH2a inhibitor cancer drug Tazverik, will get $1.45 per share along with a $1 CVR tied to achieving $250 million in sales from the drug over four consecutive quarters as well as an OK for second-line follicular lymphoma by Jan. 1, 2028.

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Alex­ion puts €65M for­ward to strength­en its po­si­tion on the Emer­ald Isle

Ireland has been on a roll in 2022, with several large pharma companies announcing multimillion-euro projects. Now AstraZeneca’s rare disease outfit Alexion is looking to get in on the action.

Alexion on Friday announced a €65 million ($68.8 million) investment in new and enhanced capabilities across two sites in the country, including at College Park in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown and the Monksland Industrial Park in the central Irish town of Athlone, according to the Industrial Development Agency of Ireland.

State bat­tles over mifepri­s­tone ac­cess could tie the FDA to any post-Roe cross­roads

As more than a dozen states are now readying so-called “trigger” laws to kick into effect immediate abortion bans following the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, these laws, in the works for more than a decade in some states, will likely kick off even more legal battles as states seek to restrict the use of prescription drug-based abortions.

Since Friday’s SCOTUS opinion to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, reproductive rights lawyers at Planned Parenthood and other organizations have already challenged these trigger laws in Utah and Louisiana. According to the Guttmacher Institute, other states with trigger laws that could take effect include Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

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Deborah Dunsire, Lundbeck CEO

Af­ter a 5-year re­peat PhI­II so­journ, Lund­beck and Ot­su­ka say they're fi­nal­ly ready to pur­sue OK to use Rex­ul­ti against Alzheimer's ag­i­ta­tion

Five years after Lundbeck and their longtime collaborators at Otsuka turned up a mixed set of Phase III data for Rexulti as a treatment for Alzheimer’s dementia-related agitation, they’ve come through with a new pivotal trial success they believe will finally put them on the road to an approval at the FDA. And if they’re right, some analysts believe they’re a short step away from adding more than $500 million in annual sales for the drug, already approved in depression and schizophrenia.

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Members of the G7 from left to right: Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden and G7 na­tions of­fer funds for vac­cine and med­ical prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing project in Sene­gal

Amidst recently broader vaccine manufacturing initiatives from the EU and European companies, the G7 summit in the mountains of Bavaria has brought about some positive news for closing vaccine and medical product manufacturing gaps around the globe.

According to a statement from the White House, the G7 leaders have formally launched the partnership for global infrastructure, PGII. The effort will aim to mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars to deliver infrastructure projects in several sectors including the medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing space.

Fed­er­al judge de­nies Bris­tol My­er­s' at­tempt to avoid Cel­gene share­hold­er law­suit

Some Celgene shareholders aren’t happy with how Bristol Myers Squibb’s takeover went down.

On Friday, a New York federal judge ruled that they have a case against the pharma giant, denying a request to dismiss allegations that it purposely slow-rolled Breyanzi’s approval to avoid paying out $6.4 billion in contingent value rights (CVR).

When Bristol Myers put down $74 billion to scoop up Celgene back in 2019, liso-cel — the CAR-T lymphoma treatment now marketed as Breyanzi — was supposedly one of the centerpieces of the deal. After going back and forth on negotiations for about six months, BMS put $6.4 billion into a CVR agreement that required an FDA approval for Zeposia, Breyanzi and Abecma, each by an established date.

Chris Anzalone, Arrowhead CEO

Take­da, Ar­row­head spot­light da­ta from small tri­al show­ing RNAi works in a rare liv­er con­di­tion

Almost two years after Takeda wagered $300 million cash to partner with Arrowhead on an RNAi therapy for a rare disease, the companies are spelling out Phase II data that they believe put them one step closer to their big dreams.

In a small, open label study involving only 16 patients who had liver disease associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), Arrowhead’s candidate — fazirsiran, previously ARO-AAT — spurred substantial reductions in accumulated mutant AAT protein in the liver, a hallmark of the condition. Investigators also tracked improvements in symptoms, with seven out of 12 who received the high, 200 mg dose seeing regression of liver fibrosis.

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