In September 2015 biotech executive Martin Shkreli became one of the most reviled men on the internet after purchasing the rights to an anti-malaria drug that treats malaria and hiking the price of the drug from US $13.50 to $750 a dose.
Now a group of teenagers from Sydney, Australia have added on to the outrage by recreating the life-saving drug in their school lab for about US $2 per pill.
Daraprim, a drug used to treat infections caused by parasites, saves millions of lives a year and is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines.
The grade 11 chemistry students at Sydney Grammar school worked on the project with the Open Source Malaria consortium, an organization with the goal of using publicaly available drugs and other medical approaches to cure the disease.
The student involved in the project, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the controversy surrounding medication was an initiative to make the experiment a successful one.
“The background to this made it seem more important,” said 17-year-old James Wood.
“Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic,” said another 17-year-old student, Austin Zhang.
The students made 3.87 grams of the active ingredient in Daraprim, which is normally worth about US $110,000.
However, because Touring Pharmaceuticals controls the sales and distribution of the drug, Shkreli’s former company would have to approve a trial comparing the drug with its patent to grant it a generic drug listing.
When Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim by more than 5,000 per cent the world reacted with outrage — even former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton chimed in on the controversial move.
Shkreli then made the news for other non-flattering acts, including using profits from his business moves to purchase exclusive rights to Wu-Tang Clan album for US $2 million. Shkreli was also charged with fraud over a hedge fund he ran.
Shkreli has since responded to the attention the Australian students have been receiving by lashing out at the media for reporting a “dumb story.”