Startup EQRx looks to "re-make" business of drug development, delivery in bid to drive down US drug prices

EQRx announced Sunday that it is launching with the help of $200 million in funding, saying it has a plan to offer a "market-based solution" to address the rising cost of medicines in the US. "Leveraging advances in science and technology to bring treatments for life threatening and chronic diseases to people more efficiently and cost-effectively, EQRx intends to offer its therapies at dramatically lower prices compared to today's innovative medicines," the company said. 

Specifically, EQRx is aiming to launch its first drug on the market in five years, and make 10 drugs available within 10 years, with CEO Alexis Borisy suggesting the therapies can be sold for one-third to one-fifth of the cost of competing products. He said the startup is looking to deliver the new medicines "in a sustainable method...In a lot of ways, this is a very simple, but perhaps very provocative idea." 

The company did not specify which diseases it will target first, only that the focus would be on small molecule and biologic drugs. Borisy noted that while each new drug will still cost several hundred million dollars to develop, "our probability of success will be much much higher" by going after known targets using the latest technology, including artificial intelligence. The executive also suggested that EQRx will be safe from patent infringement lawsuits, arguing that "patents have become much narrower, and you really can't protect, in most cases, a biological target." 

Borisy previously co-founded Foundation Medicine, which Roche paid about $2.4 billion to take full control of in 2018, as well as Blueprint Medicines, which won its first FDA approval last week with the drug Ayvakit (avapritinib) to treat certain patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumours. He also co-founded Tango Therapeutics and Relay Therapeutics. 

Aside from Borisy, EQRx co-founders include Sandra Horning, Roche's former chief medical officer and head of global product development, as well as Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Melanie Nallicheri, former chief business officer and head of Biopharma for Foundation Medicine and senior vice president at McKesson Distribution Solutions, Susan Hager, former head of corporate communications and government affairs at Foundation Medicine, and former Verastem Oncology CEO Robert Forrester.  

Meanwhile, financial backers of EQRx, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, include GV, ARCH Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Section 32 and others. 

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