EQRx backtracks on plans to reduce pricing of lead cancer treatments

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

© SPmemory / Getty Images
© SPmemory / Getty Images

Related tags: Pricing, Cancer

For its two lead oncology programs, the company will pursue “market-based pricing”, moving away from plans to “dramatically lower prices” for treatments.

EQRx launched in the beginning of 2020 and stated, at the time​, that it would “create novel, patent-protected medicines at prices that are more affordable for people and sustainable for healthcare systems.”

In its most recent third quarter financials, such aims were put on hold, at least for its two lead drug candidates. The company outlined that it would adopt market-based pricing for aumolertinib and lerociclib.

The switch in strategy arrives after the company announced that it could see no commercially viable path for its previous lead treatment candidate, sugemalimab, which it had lined up to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The PD-L1 treatment had completed a Phase III trial in China for its use in Stage IV NSCLC. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had informed the company that a second Phase III trial would be required to support US filing for the treatment. The company added that interim study readouts of such a trial would not be supportive of a filing with the regulator.

However, EQRx did note that it was still in dialogue with the FDA over an approval pathway for the drug candidate in extranodal NK/T-cell lymphoma.

Instead of pursuing sugemalimab as its lead candidate, the company plans to prioritize development of aumolertinib and lerociclib, with a potential regulatory filing for the former expected in 2027. According to the company, it has $1.5bn (€1.46bn) in cash, providing it a development runway into 2028.

Pricing plans on pause

The decision to adopt market-based pricing on its two lead candidates changes significantly the strategy of EQRx from when it first launched.

EQRx CEO, Alexis Borisy, stated, at the time, “The pricing of new therapeutic approaches is pushing beyond the limits of common sense, preventing people and society from equally benefiting from innovation.”

The idea behind launching EQRx was that it could deliver rival therapeutics onto the market, such as its PD-L1 therapy, and price them at “dramatically lower prices compared to today’s innovative medicines,”​ thereby increasing access.

This objective saw the company receive financial backing on launch, as it emerged with $200m (€194m) in funding, raised through a Series A financing round.

Previously, the company stated that it wanted to launch its first medicine within five years and have 10 approved in 10 years. Further, EQRx noted that it wanted to build a portfolio in oncology because those are “the most financially toxic for patients and their families.”

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