New Drugs at Low Prices: Alexis Borisy and Melanie Nallicheri of EQRx on The Long Run

Today’s guests on The Long Run are Alexis Borisy and Melanie Nallicheri.

Alexis Borisy, chairman and CEO, EQRx

Alexis is the chairman and CEO of EQRx, and Melanie is the president and chief operating officer.

EQRx is a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It aspires to develop new medicines for serious diseases like cancer. That’s nothing unusual.

What is unusual is that EQRx is seeking to create a company that makes a profit, but does so by churning out many new drugs so it can get by without resorting to the unjustifiable price increases, or outright price-gouging, that has poisoned the reservoir of public trust in the biopharmaceutical industry.

Essentially, it wants to develop and sell lots of innovative drugs at low prices.

EQRx is seeking to mitigate technical risk somewhat by pursuing a “fast-follower” strategy in which the underlying target biology is relatively well-known, and it can learn and quickly adapt to development plans laid out by trailblazers in a new therapeutic category.

By reducing technical risk as a fast-follower, EQRx believes it can run faster, cheaper, lean and mean clinical trials with a higher probability of success. That would reduce its R&D spending and opportunity cost. If it can pull this off several times in a row, the diversified portfolio should give it the flexibility to price its ultimate products a lot cheaper. That’s the thinking.

Melanie Nallicheri, president and COO, EQRx

You might be skeptical. Plenty of people are. Drug pricing has been so dysfunctional for so long. So many vulnerable people in our society have felt exploited and gouged and ripped off for so long. They flat-out don’t trust the biopharmaceutical industry. The public has good reason to be skeptical.

There’s a lot here to think about, in terms of how pharma can and should operate, whether you agree or disagree with what Alexis and Melanie have in mind. It’s worth re-thinking especially in this new moment of crisis and collective spirit during the global pandemic.

I hope you enjoy this conversation.

Please join me and Alexis Borisy and Melanie Nallicheri on The Long Run.

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