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 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).”

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Can strug­gling Iterum turn the cor­ner to an an­tibi­ot­ic suc­cess sto­ry? They will know in six months

More than five years after Corey Fishman and Michael Dunne dusted sulopenem off Pfizer’s shelves — the second castoff antibiotic they’ve brought out of the pharma giant — and founded Iterum Therapeutics around that single drug, they have lined up a quick shot at approval with priority review from the FDA.

The decision, six months from now, will mark a make-or-break moment for a struggling biotech that has just enough cash to keep the lights on until the third quarter.

Bahija Jallal, Immunocore

Buried in Im­muno­core's IPO fil­ings? A kick­back scheme from a now for­mer em­ploy­ee

Immunocore spent much of 2019 dealing with the fallout of the Neil Woodford scandal, as the former star investor’s fall crashed the biotech’s valuation out of unicorn range. Now it turns out that the company spent 2020 dealing with another internal scandal.

The longtime UK biotech darling disclosed in their IPO filing last week that they had fallen victim to an alleged kickback scheme involving one of their employees. After a whistleblower came forward, they said in their F-1, they spent the summer and spring investigating, finding fraud on the part of an employee and two outside vendors.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na dou­bles down on Covid-19 with new boost­er tri­als; Aus­tralia plans do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of As­traZeneca vac­cine amid dis­tri­b­u­tion lag

As Merck bows out of the global race to develop vaccines for Covid-19, Moderna is doubling down to make sure they can quell new variants that have recently emerged and quickly spread.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech put out word on Monday that in vivo studies indicate their mRNA vaccine works well enough against two strains first detected in the UK and South Africa. But with a six-fold reduction in neutralizing titers observed against the latter strain, the company is launching a new study of a booster version to make sure it can do the job.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Jean-Christophe-Hyvert, Lonza

Lon­za look­ing to build on 'd­if­fer­en­ti­at­ed ad­van­tage' in Covid-19, CD­MO mar­ket­place in 2021

It’s not new for Lonza, the Swiss CDMO nearing its quasquicentennial anniversary, to be in the upper echelon of the biotech manufacturing industry.

But 2020 — as it was for many CDMOs — was a special year even by Lonza’s standards. The company inked a deal to produce 1 billion worldwide doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and tapped pharma vet Pierre-Alain Ruffieux to lead its operations, moves which have allowed Lonza to make a myriad of other deals that will continue to ramp up its global production capacity.

Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

Scoop: Vivek Ra­maswamy is hand­ing the CEO job to a top lieu­tenant at Roivant — but he’s not ex­act­ly leav­ing the biotech scene

Over the past 7 years since founding Roivant, Vivek Ramaswamy has been a constant blur of biotech building motion.

He launched his first biotech with an Alzheimer’s drug he picked up cheap, and watched the experiment implode in one of the highest profile pivotal disasters seen in the last decade. But it didn’t slow the 30-something exec down; if anything, he hit the accelerator. Ramaswamy blazed global paths and went on to raise billions to spur the creation of a large lineup of little Vants promising big things at a fast pace. He sold off a section of the Vant brigade to Sumitomo Dainippon for $3 billion. And more recently the relentless dealmaker has been building a computational discovery arm to add an AI-driven approach to kicking up new programs and companies, supplementing the in-licensing drive while pursuing advances that have created more than 700 jobs at Roivant, with $2 billion in reserves.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Ron Cooper, Albireo CEO

Al­bireo just ad­vanced down to the 10-yard line at the FDA. And Ron Coop­er’s team is get­ting prepped for the next big play

When Albireo Pharma’s board $ALBO moved to bring in Ron Cooper as the CEO more than 5 years ago, the development-stage company went with an experienced commercial player who had a big-time position on his resume after running Bristol Myers’ commercial ops in Europe.

Now, after successfully navigating a pivotal study, putting them in a foot race with a rival toward an FDA OK, Cooper is getting a boost from regulators on the last drive back to an arena he understands completely.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

News brief­ing: Jef­frey Lei­den to chair Tmu­ni­ty board of di­rec­tors; Op­di­vo wins new ap­proval in ad­vanced RCC

Longtime Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden is taking on a new role.

Leiden has been appointed chairman of Tmunity’s board of directors, the company announced Monday. The move comes about a year and a half after Leiden announced he’d be stepping down from his position at Vertex.

Vertex saw immense growth under Leiden, leading the company from its exit out of hepatitis C, when cures were moving in, and into cystic fibrosis. The company’s cystic fibrosis triple combo therapy Trikafta is already its best-seller, reaching the distinction just six weeks after launch and recording the strongest first quarter of sales for any drug, per some estimates.