After debuting a year ago at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Cambridge startup EQRx announced on Monday it has raised $500 million in its second round of funding.
The deal stands out even amid other large funding rounds in life sciences. When EQRx launched last January with $200 million, its mission, unlike many biotechs, did not encompass a particular disease area. Instead, its focus has been more of a financial one: EQRx wants to dramatically lower the price of certain drugs, in part by developing and distributing them in more efficient ways.
Now, with about $750 million in tow, the startup is providing more information about its approach, as well as what kinds of drugs it has been working on. The company said on Monday that it has four drugs in late-stage trials that could treat cancers including lung and breast cancer, and it is also working on medicines for inflammatory conditions.
The startup is run by its founder, Alexis Borisy, a well-known former partner of Boston venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures.
“There is an urgent need for change in the industry’s approach to drug pricing, and although challenging, changing the model is not only possible, it is critical,” said Borisy, chairman and chief executive of EQRx, in a press release.
It’s still unclear how exactly EQRx will make drugs at a “fraction of the cost of today’s leading therapies,” but Monday’s announcement provided a bit more clarity.
EQRx said it will develop medicines for known disease targets, to decrease the cost of development and increase its chances of winning regulatory approval. It will also partner with health systems and insurers directly to focus on patient access. EQRx said it has already “entered several strategic collaborations with national and regional health plans and large integrated delivery networks and health systems.”
Melanie Nallicheri, cofounder, president, and chief operating officer of EQRx, called the company “the ultimate convener, bringing healthcare stakeholders together in meaningful strategic partnerships to modernize traditional drug manufacturer-to-patient access models globally.”
The startup said its recent funding comes from its existing investors, life science specialists, mutual funds, private equity funds, sovereign wealth and family offices, and health systems and insurers. Its venture capital investors include Arch Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, and GV.
Borisy told STAT News the company employs more than 100 people, and expects to double that in 2021.