Fast follow: EQRx engineers $410M-plus worth of deals to CDK4/6, EGFR drugs
Alexis Borisy and Melanie Nallicheri have given the world a first glimpse at the markets they want to disrupt, as EQRx unveils the licensing of two drugs that it’s now rushing to develop and commercialize — at a promised steep discount to rivals.
Both lerociclib from G1 Therapeutics and almonertinib from Hansoh Pharma are what EQRx dubs “fast follow” medicines, with the same targets as approved cancer drugs.
The G1 deal, which pits them against Pfizer and Eli Lilly in the CDK4/6 space, involves an upfront payment of $20 million and milestones adding up to $290 million. EQRx has exclusive rights to the drug in the US, Europe, Japan and all other regions excluding the Asia-Pacific (where Genor has staked a claim).
For Hansoh, deal value is approximately $100 million between upfront payments and development and regulatory milestones for ex-China worldwide rights to an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor that’s already OK’d in China. The deal also included undisclosed commercial milestones.
“These are not our first programs, they are the first that are being disclosed,” Borisy told Endpoints News, adding they disclosed them because the partners are public companies. “We’re very excited about these two programs, we think they’re absolutely great programs … but it’s not our first nor only.”
He declined to name how many they’ve licensed so far: “We will come out when we’re ready.”
They are, however, the first concrete examples of how the execs are going about achieving the lofty mission they blasted at the biopharma world at EQRx’s January launch. Borisy, a former venture capitalist at Third Rock, set out with ex-Foundation Medicine CBO Nallicheri to prove that competition, not regulation, is the way to bring down sky high drug prices that they admit need to be reined in. Peter Bach, the director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes and an outspoken critic of the status quo in US drug pricing, joined as a co-founder alongside former Roche CMO Sandra Horning.
They had $200 million to begin. The plan, according to CEO Borisy, was to have their first drug on the market within 5 years and nine more by 2030.
EQRx didn’t delve into details about their development plan, but noted that lerociclib is currently in two Phase I/II trials, one in combination with fulvestrant for patients with ER+, HER-2 breast cancer, and another in EGFRm non-small cell lung cancer. As for almonertinib, it’s already available in China as second-line therapy for metastatic EGFR T790M mutation-positive non-small cell lung cancer. An ongoing Phase III tests it head-to-head with Iressa, a first-gen EGFR TKI.
Borisy said the company had started with a list of 50 drug targets, then whittled to the first 25, then the first 10. CDK4/6 and EGFR stood out because of the sheer size of the market and the cost of the drugs currently available. Both Pfizer and Eli Lilly charge around $13,000 for their CDk4/6 inhibitors Ibrance and Verzenio.
“We said we’ll be heavily focused on oncology and inflammatory disorders, and we said that because that’s where we have real significant burden of those extraordinarily high-priced drugs and the scale of those drugs,” Borisy said. “CDK4/6 and EGFR — these are two of the largest drug categories out there.”
Over the past months, Borisy and Nallicheri — who serves as president and COO — grew the team out to more than 50 and still plans to hire more.
Even as the nation grapples with “the largest healthcare challenge of our time,” they noted, people still get diagnosed with cancer and paying for treatments remains a challenge for many. The reality renders EQRx’s social contract more important than ever:
Amidst the backdrop of a national healthcare crisis, our industry has demonstrated the speed and tenacity that underscores how efficient we can all be if we simply put our collective minds to solving a problem.