EQRx's low cost drug dream ends in Revolution

EQRx's mission to revolutionize drug pricing has come to an end with another type of revolution: an acquisition, to be exact. The Alexis Borisy biotech will be acquired by another of the serial biotech founder's startups, Revolution Medicines. 

The deal will add $1 billion to Revolution's balance sheet, which will be used to push a handful of oncology assets further into the clinic. The all-stock transaction—which is expected to close in November—has already been approved by the directors of both companies. Revolution said the deal will “enhanc[e] its balance sheet, increasing financial certainty in a challenging macroenvironment.”

“This singular acquisition of a sizable quantum of capital signifies the growing confidence we have in our RAS-focused drug candidate pipeline, and substantially increases our capacity to continue advancing high-performing oncology assets, particularly our priority clinical-stage RAS(ON) inhibitors, RMC-6236, RMC-6291 and RMC-9805,” Revolution CEO Mark Goldsmith, M.D., Ph.D., said in the release.

Revolution is hardly short of money, ending March with over $900 million in cash and equivalents, which had been buoyed by a $345 million public equity offering earlier that month. The Redwood City, California-based company was cheered by encouraging early data on anti-tumor activity from a phase 1/2 trial of RMC-6236 earlier this year. The therapy is designed to treat patients with cancers driven by a wide range of common RAS mutations.

In contrast, EQRx was already on its last legs, having let go of 170 employees—about 57% of its workforce—and culled all but one of its R&D programs in what the Massachusetts-based biotech optimistically called a “reset” back in May.

The company had previously set out grand plans to radically reduce drug prices via a “global buyers club” made up of insurers and hospital systems worldwide. However, the dream lost traction at the end of last year when EQRx chose not to seek FDA approval of cancer drug sugemalimab because officials wouldn’t accept clinical data from China.

At the time, the company said it would leverage the $1.3 billion in cash and equivalents still on hand to continue to develop lerociclib. The CDK 4/6 inhibitor was licensed from G1 Therapeutics in 2020 and is being tested in a phase 3 trial in combo with approved drug letrozole in patients with first-line advanced endometrial cancer, as well as a phase 2 trial in patients with first- and second-line advanced breast cancer alongside letrozole or Faslodex.

But it seems Revolution is only interested in the money, not the asset—the company stated today that it doesn’t intend to continue with any of EQRX’s R&D work. “EQRx will commence a process to wind down these programs and return the associated intellectual property to its partners, which would have the opportunity to independently decide the next steps on development,” Revolution added.

Borisy, a board member at Revolution, served as founding CEO of EQRx before passing the reins over to Melanie Nallicheri.