Last year Martin Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager and founder of biotech company Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased the rights to a critical anti-parasitic drug and jacked up the price by more than 5,000%.
Turing had acquired the U.S. marketing rights to Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug used to treat malaria and parasitic infections in patients with weakened immune systems. After picking up the rights, Shkreli immediately raised the price from $US13.50 a pill to $US750.
Now a group of year 11 students from Sydney Grammar have made the same drug for about $2 (U.S. $1.50) a dose, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The students’ project is part of the University of Sydney’s Open Source Malaria Consortium. It’s only the second year Sydney Grammar has been involved.
“Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic,” one of the Sydney Grammar boys, Austin Zhang, 17, told the Herald.
The boys started with 17g of the raw material 2,4-chlorophenyl acetonitrile, which you can buy online at $36.50 for 100g.
They had to work through a number of steps with their chemistry teacher, finding an innovative way to get around the patented route.
From the 17g of raw material, the boys produced 3.7g of Daraprim — That’s about $US110,000 worth of the drug based on the price mark-up of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
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But they won’t be selling it in the U.S. any time soon.
While the drug is out of patent, Turing Pharmaceuticals controls its distribution and sale through a loophole called the “closed distribution model” and the consortium would need to fund a whole new trial to take it to market as a generic product.
The SMH has more.