| January 19, 2020

Eqrx Is Launching With $200m Series a to Create New Affordable Drugs

Anca Spanu

Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at... Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at various media outlets all over the world. At Healthcare Weekly, Anca writes about current events, innovations in the healthcare space and events/ conferences with a focus on investing & startups.

EQRx is launching with $200 million in Series A and has put together a dream team of blue-chip investors and life sciences leaders to discover new more affordable drugs and unearth improved ways to deliver them to patients.

The financing round was led by GV, ARCH Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, and Casdin Capital, Section 32, Nextech and Arboretum Ventures, among others.

“The bold mission of EQRx to deliver better medicines at lower prices is one that can redefine the therapeutics landscape,” said Krishna Yeshwant, MD, general partner, GV. “The company’s business model will deliver a sustainable approach for creating, reinvesting in, and rewarding therapeutics innovation, while ensuring these new medicines are broadly accessible to people and healthcare systems through dramatically lower pricing.”

 

The company is counting on an expert team 

EQRx’s team of life sciences enterprise leaders who will work towards putting new affordable drugs on the market include:

  • Alexis Borisy, a leading biotechnology entrepreneur and investor, as chairman and chief executive officer;
  • Melanie Nallicheri, former chief business officer and head of Biopharma for Foundation Medicine and senior vice president at McKesson Distribution Solutions, as president and chief operating officer;
  • Robert Forrester, former chief executive officer of Verastem Oncology, as CXO;
  • Susan Hager, former senior vice president of corporate communications, government affairs and advocacy at Foundation Medicine, as chief communications officer and senior vice president, Corporate Affairs & citizenship;
  • Peter Bach, MD, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, as co-founder and advisor; and,
  • Sandra Horning, MD, former executive vice president, chief medical officer, and global head product development, Genentech/Roche, as co-founder and advisor.
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Novel, more sustainable drugs for more patients

EQRx announced on January 12th that it will use the money to create novel, patent-protected medicines at prices that are more affordable for patients and more sustainable for healthcare systems. The biotechnology company, a first of its kind, focuses on re-engineering the entire process from drug discovery to patient delivery, with the intention of providing a market-based solution for the ever-increasing cost of medicines. Basically, EQRx plans to use advances in science and technology to develop treatments for life-threatening and chronic diseases and deliver them to people, while keeping the whole process more efficient and cost-effective. The final goal of EQRx is to offer its therapies at significantly lower prices compared to those the pharma industry currently assigns to innovative medicines.

“Over the last several decades, society has benefited from unprecedented technological advances and a deeper understanding of disease biology, revolutionizing the way many diseases are treated today. That said, the pricing of new therapeutic approaches is pushing beyond the limits of common sense, preventing people and society from equally benefiting from innovation,” said Alexis Borisy, chairman and chief executive officer of EQRx. “The time is now for a market-based solution to rising drug costs. Our blue-chip team of founders and leaders is proud to launch EQRx and to lead the way in redefining what it means to innovate and deliver high-quality medicines that are within reach of people through more equitable prices.”

Despite political criticism, some drug manufacturers continue to raise prices

Even though the out-of-pocket costs patients are usually forced to pay are distinct from drug manufacturers list prices, prices have constantly gone up in recent years, reaching levels in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. They are contributing to the rise in overall costs of medication throughout the healthcare system. Both major political parties have introduced a number of proposals that would have an impact on these costs, from requiring more transparency in negotiations between manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers to changing the statute of Medicare, allowing it to negotiate drug prices directly, a practice which is now forbidden.

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Meanwhile, several major drugmakers have just increased their drug prices.

Drug manufacturers, such as Allergan, Eli Lilly, and others have increased their prices on a number of drugs, thus contributing to the trend of rising costs imposed by the pharma industry.

Despite criticism from lawmakers and President Trump, which caused some major drug manufacturers to put their plans to raise prices on hold, several of the industry’s big players, including Pfizer, decided to continue with their plans to increase.

Given this context, EQRx’s plans to produce affordable new drugs might be a winning card.

“The process of developing and bringing new drugs to market should and can be organized towards the goal of their being affordable both for patients and society,” said Peter Bach, MD, co-founder of EQRx and director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Today even people with insurance are delaying filling prescriptions or going without due to the high cost-sharing that is ‘part and parcel’ of high drug prices. New approaches are needed. EQRx aims to create affordable new medicines that are priced for access, and accessibility is the critical attribute for every medicine if it is going to improve people’s health.”

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About EQRx

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts and backed by GV, ARCH Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Casdin Capital, Section 32, Nextech, and Arboretum Ventures, EQRx is committed to discovering and producing innovative medicines at significantly lower prices for the benefit of people and society. By bringing together stakeholders from across the healthcare system and utilizing the latest advances in science and technology, the company seeks to more efficiently and cost-effectively discover, develop and deliver to patients high-quality, patent-protected medicines.


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