EQRx Chairman and CEO Alexis Borisy with President and COO Melanie Nallicheri
In the summer of 2019, I was at a board offsite for Relay Therapeutics, chatting with long-time collaborator, investor, entrepreneur, and friend Alexis Borisy. Many who know Alexis acknowledge that he is seldom wrong, and never in doubt. He looked at me with all the conviction in the world to state point-blank that he wanted to tackle drug pricing. It was a bit unexpected, since his whole career focused on new science such as the formation of Foundation Medicine, Editas, and Blueprint Medicines, to name a few. These are incredibly valuable additions to the healthcare system, but not directly focused on the complex world of pricing and reimbursement. Alexis was developing a plan with seasoned healthcare executive Melanie Nallicheri. It sounded crazy and counterintuitive. I instantly knew I wanted to work with them.
Melanie and Alexis teamed up to form EQRx, which launched almost exactly a year ago. GV invested straight away along with a fantastic syndicate. Today the company revealed its Series B funding to bring new medicines to patients and healthcare systems at lower prices. Their goal hasn't wavered from what they first envisioned. EQRx aims to develop and bring certain drugs to market at dramatically lower costs. The company's audacious goal is to bring ten drugs to market in ten years. They are creating more affordable versions of medicines that show promise treating some of the most common and devastating types of cancers globally including lung cancer, breast cancer, and other solid tumors.
As a physician, I am painfully aware that drug prices across the board are too high. Specialty therapeutics, including many oncology, rheumatology, and rare disease drugs, tend to be the most expensive. What's more, the out-of-pocket cost for prescriptions is unsustainable. It can cost individuals and families a fortune to treat and manage common diseases and health conditions. Nearly one in four people in the U.S. who take prescription medicines have trouble paying for them. Patients and policymakers have long sounded the alarm about high drug prices — but until EQRx came along, we hadn't yet seen a market approach that puts a dent in those costs.
There are, of course, proposals like International Reference Pricing and other approaches regulators have put forward, but experts working in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields have voiced concern about these being top-down solutions. And it's not clear if such approaches will work at all, and since they function outside of traditional markets and could inadvertently disrupt one of the most successful industries in our country.
Most entrepreneurs and investors in biotech naturally gravitate to shiny and new science. But in a refreshing reversal, EQRx is rethinking not just the science, but the business model for how drugs can come to market. When Alexis and Melanie started EQRx alongside Dr. Sandra Horning, Dr. Peter Bach, and other industry veterans, they set out to provide drugs to patients and health care systems at prices that are a fraction of the cost of existing therapeutics. And now we will have the best chance of finally bringing therapeutic treatments to patients at affordable prices.
After a year of hard work, EQRx estimates that its pipeline of therapies has the potential to save the U.S. healthcare system between 50-70% of its current drug spend. At a time when patients need it most, this effort could have an astonishing impact by saving money that could be used to bolster other critical healthcare needs and create greater access to therapies. We are excited to work with EQRx on this vision.