Genetown Startup Launches with $200 Million and Mission to Develop Affordable Drugs

Cambridge_Edi_Marcio Jose Bastos Silva

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With a massive $200 million Series A financing round, EQRx launches with the mission of creating novel medicines that are more affordable for patients and more sustainable for healthcare systems.

The launch of the Cambridge, Mass.-based startup comes at a point when payers and lawmakers across the United States are fuming over the high-price of some drugs covered by government-funded insurance programs, while the same drug is available for a lower cost to other healthcare systems across the globe. With that kind of anger in mind, EQRx has entered the space with the idea of offering its own therapies at dramatically lower prices compared to today’s innovative medicines. EQRx is focused on re-engineering the process of developing medicines, from discovery to delivery, with the goal of offering a market-based solution for the rising cost of medicines.

Alexis Borisy, chairman and chief executive officer of EQRx, said the time is now for a “market-based solution to rising drug costs.” Over the past few decades, Borisy noted that people have benefitted from “unprecedented technological advances and a deeper understanding of disease biology,” which has revolutionized treatment options that are available to patients today. But, Borisy adds, the prices of these new therapeutic approaches are “pushing beyond the limits of common sense, preventing people and society from equally benefiting from innovation.”

“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,” Borisy added.

To be sure, the launch of EQRx isn’t the first time a company has been launched with the goal of offering lower-cost options. In 2018, Civica Rx was founded by five healthcare systems as a not-for-profit generic drugmaker with a goal of developing 14 common generic drugs used by hospital systems across the country. Some of the drugs the company planned to focus on are those that saw significant price increases, as well as those on national shortage lists. Since its launch, Civica Rx has made alliances with other companies to boost its goals.

Peter Bach, co-founder of EQRx and director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said the process of bringing new drugs to market “should and can be organized towards the goal of their being affordable both for patients and society.” Back pointed to rising concerns about individuals who are delaying the filling of prescriptions or rationing life-saving medications such as insulin due to the costs – even those who have prescription-coverage plans.

“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,” Back said.

The new company launched with a massive amount of capital to boost its efforts. The Series A round was led by GV, ARCH Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Casdin Capital, Section 32, Nextech and Arboretum Ventures, among others. Krishna Yeshwant, general partner at GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) said the mission of EQRx can redefine the therapeutics landscape. Yeshwant said the business model put forth by EQRx 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.”

In addition to Borisy at the helm of the company and Bach, who is serving as an advisor, EQRx has assembled a strong leadership team, including:

  • Melanie Nallicheri, the new president and chief operating officer. Nallicheri was the former chief business officer and head of Biopharma for Foundation Medicine and senior vice president at McKesson Distribution Solutions
  • Robert Forrester, the former CEO of Verastem Oncology, was named CXO;
  • Susan Hager, the former senior vice president of corporate communications, government affairs and advocacy at Foundation Medicine, was named chief communications officer and senior vice president of corporate Affairs & citizenship;
  • Sandra Horning, the former chief medical officer and global head product development for Genentech/Roche, is also a co-founder and advisor.
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