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 almonertinib, 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).”