No discounts here: Biotech EQRx to raise $1.8B in SPAC deal for lofty discount drug goal

After raising $750 million in private financing since January 2020 on its towering mission to rewrite the life sciences pricing model, EQRx has now tapped the public markets for another $1.8 billion in a special purpose acquisition company deal. 

Before getting into the SPAC details, a quick catch-up: EQRx hired a former Sanofi chief operating officer of research in July, secured a phase 3 win for a cancer drug with partner CStone Pharmaceuticals in June and inked an artificial-intelligence-powered drug discovery partnership that same month. 

RELATED: Former Sanofi executive joins low price-focused biotech EQRx to lead drug creation

Now, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech is linking arms with blank-check company CM Life Sciences III to go public on the Nasdaq under, you guessed it, the ticker "EQRX." The deal values EQRx at $3.65 billion.

Follow the money, because there's usually high-profile names attached. EQRx will add Amy Abernethy, M.D., Ph.D., the former principal deputy FDA commissioner, to its board. Serial biotech founder Alexis Borisy will move from CEO to executive chairman. To complete a trifecta of moves, Melanie Nallicheri was promoted from president and chief operating officer to CEO.

With an anticipated $1.8 billion in proceeds, including $1.2 billion from private investment in public equity, the combined company will have a whopping $2 billion on the balance sheet to fund 10-plus programs. 

That medicine lineup includes two oncology assets with positive phase 3 data, aumolertinib and sugemalimab. 

RELATED: Phase 3 data boost EQRx's plan to undercut checkpoint inhibitors

EQRx and partner CStone said sugemalimab, an anti-PD-L1 antibody, met its primary endpoint in a phase 3 clinical trial of patients with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in May. 

The other phase 3 data? EQRx's aumolertinib resulted in a clinically significant improvement in progression-free survival compared to AstraZeneca's Iressa in first-line treatment for NSCLC, the company and partner Hansoh Pharma also announced in May. 

EQRx now has the cash to work on a pipeline of 10-plus programs and further its drug discovery partnerships with Exscientia and AbCellera Biologics thanks to the SPAC deal.