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).”

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO

'This is not go­ing to be good': Mod­er­na CEO Ban­cel warns of a 'ma­te­r­i­al drop' in vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy as Omi­cron spreads

Even as public health officials remain guarded about their comments on the likelihood Omicron will escape the reach of the currently approved Covid-19 vaccines, there’s growing scientific consensus that we’re facing a variant that threatens to overwhelm the vaccine barricades that have been erected.

Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, one of the leading mRNA players whose quick vault into the markets with a highly effective vaccine created an instant multibillion-dollar market, added his voice to the rising chorus early Tuesday. According to Bancel, there will be a significant drop in efficacy when the average immune system is confronted by Omicron. The only question now is: How much?

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FDA ad­comm nar­row­ly votes in fa­vor of Mer­ck­'s an­tivi­ral for out­pa­tient Covid-19

With little explanation for why Merck’s potential Covid-19 antiviral was less effective in reducing Covid hospitalizations and deaths in a full analysis of a Phase 3 trial versus an interim look, the FDA’s antimicrobial drugs advisory committee on Tuesday voted 13-10 in favor of the pill’s benefits outweighing the risks for adults within 5 days of developing Covid symptoms.

Molnupiravir will likely be authorized by FDA in the coming days for adults with mild or moderate Covid-19. While Pfizer’s antiviral may prove to be more effective, Merck’s pill will be another weapon in the armamentarium of Covid-19 treatments for countries around the world, adding to the mAb treatments already in use in the outpatient space from Regeneron, Eli Lilly and Vir/GlaxoSmithKline.

Ap­peals court puts the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin for Tec­fidera patent, adding to Bio­gen's bur­geon­ing set­backs

In another setback for Biogen, the big biotech lost its appeal to revive a patent for the once-blockbuster drug Tecfidera, marking a likely conclusion to the case.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued the ruling Tuesday morning, saying Biogen failed to satisfy the “written description” requirement for patent law. As a result, Mylan-turned-Viatris will be able to sell its multiple sclerosis generic without fear of infringement and Biogen will have to find a new revenue driver elsewhere.

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Philip Dormitzer, new GSK global head of vaccines R&D

Glax­o­SmithK­line poach­es Pfiz­er's vi­ral vac­cines lead in rush to cap­i­tal­ize on fu­ture of mR­NA

GlaxoSmithKline has appointed Philip Dormitzer, formerly chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s viral vaccines unit, as its newest global head of vaccines R&D, looking to leverage one of the leading minds behind Pfizer and BioNTech’s RNA collaboration that led to Covid-19 jab Comirnaty, the British drug giant said Tuesday.

Dormitzer had been with Pfizer for a little more than six years, joining up after a seven-year stint with Novartis, where he reached the role of US head of research and head of global virology for the company’s vaccines and diagnostics unit.

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In­tro­duc­ing End­points Stu­dio, a new way to ad­ver­tise with End­points-craft­ed brand­ing cam­paigns

Since our start in 2016, Endpoints has grown fast while executing our mission to cover biopharma’s most critical developments for industry pros worldwide. As readership has grown, our advertising business has too. Endpoints advertising partners support the mission and engage their desired audiences through announcements on our email and web platforms, brand recognition in our event coverage and sponsorships of Endpoints daily and weekly reports.

Tillman Gerngross (Adagio)

Till­man Gern­gross on Omi­cron: 'It is a grim sit­u­a­tion...we’re go­ing to see a sig­nif­i­cant drop in vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy'

Tillman Gerngross, the rarely shy Dartmouth professor, biotech entrepreneur and antibody expert, has been warning for over a year that the virus behind Covid-19 would likely continue to mutate, potentially in ways that avoid immunity from infection and the best defenses scientists developed. He spun out a company, Adagio, to build a universal antibody, one that could snuff out any potential mutation.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Ab­b­Vie’s Hu­mi­ra TV turns fo­cus to HS skin con­di­tion; Sanofi amps par­ent­ing pol­i­cy

After years as the top spending pharma TV advertiser, AbbVie’s Humira brand finally downshifted earlier this year, ceding much of its marketing budget to up-and-coming sibling meds Skyrizi and Rinvoq. However, now Humira is back on TV with ads for another condition — Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS).

The chronic and painful skin condition results in lumps and abscesses caused by inflammation or infection of sweat glands, most often in the armpits or groin. Humira was first approved to treat HS in 2015 and remains the only FDA-approved drug for the condition. Two TV ads both note more than 30,000 people with HS have been prescribed Humira.