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US start-up EQRx promises approach that will slash drug prices

Plans to have its first drug on the market in just five years

Dollar pills

A new US start-up says it has a plan to completely revamp the approach to drug development, allowing to launch drugs more quickly and at a lower cost.

The bold pledge comes from EQRx, the latest biopharma venture to be launched by Alexis Borisy whose earlier start-ups included genomics firm Foundation Medicine – sold to Roche for $2.4bn in 2018 – and Blueprint Medicines which has just claimed its first approval for a high-priced cancer drug.

Borisy will serve as both chairman and chief executive of the new company, which like Foundation and Blueprint is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Armed with a healthy $200m in Series A funding, EQRx intends to create “novel, patent-protected medicines at prices that are more affordable for people and sustainable for healthcare systems”, according to its launch statement, which says it will focus on “life threatening and chronic diseases”.

Borisy says that drastic action is needed as the price of new medicines is “pushing beyond the limits of common sense, preventing people and society from equally benefiting from innovation”.

EQRx’ proposed timelines are also ambitious. It wants its first drug to be on the market in just five years, and follow that with another nine before it celebrates its first decade of operations. And when it comes to price, it wants to be able to offer its drugs at a price that is one-third to one-fifth of rival drugs.

The plan doesn’t seem to be predicated on any new technology platform or breakthrough. Rather, EQRx intends to harness existing techniques to develop new drugs that address the same targets as current drugs – reminiscent of ‘me-too’ drug development.

It will focus on bringing them through development as efficiently as possible and undercutting the price of existing drugs to gain formulary presence, while still making a profit due to lower costs.

“The time is now for a market-based solution to rising drug costs,” says Borisy. “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.”

EQRx is co-founded by Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center whose academic interests focus on pricing as well as other aspects of healthcare policy, as well as Roche’s former chief medical officer Sandra Horning who takes an advisory role.

Bach recently proposed a model for selecting drugs for pricing negotiations with Medicare – a policy that has bipartisan support in the US congress as a way to curb spending on medicines.

Other key figures in EQRx include former Foundation Medicine and McKesson executive Melanie Nallicheri, who serves as president and chief operating officer.

Article by
Phil Taylor

13th January 2020

From: Marketing

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