Remember Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund manager who managed to increase the price of a life-saving HIV drug by 5000 percent? It would seem that a group of student from Sydney, Australia, managed to prove that HIV/malaria drug can be safely synthesized for only $2.
Back in 2015, the Shkreli Turing Pharmacology company acquired the patent for Daraprim, a revolutionary drug used to treat toxoplasmosis. In addition, it would also seem that Daraprim is a field-proven antimalarial agent.
After the company had acquired the patent for Daraprim, the drug’s cost skyrocketed to $750 per dose, compared to its initial price of $13.50 per dose. Of course, one can image that such a move inflamed the public opinion, which questioned Shkreli’s morality, and accused him of lack of integrity.
However, things remained unchanged until a group of students from an Australian school proved that an equivalent compound, with similar medical value, can be synthesized at a lower price.
For their science project, several students from the Sydney Grammar School wanted to synthesize Daraprim, the life-saving drug. According to the school’s official statements, the project was coordinated by the students’ chemistry teacher.
However, they had some help from the outside. Alice Williamson, Ph.D., a chemist working at the University of Sydney worked alongside the children and their teacher on the project through Open Source Malaria.
The students’ findings were presented during the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s NSW Organic Symposium, which took place on Wednesday. It would seem that the students started with a compound called (4-chlorophenyl)acetonitrile which they’ve managed to transform it into pyrimethamine.
In addition, the substance used to create the Daraprim substitute cost only $35, and the students managed to synthesize more than 3 grams. Their findings show that the substance can be safely produced in laboratory conditions, 5000 times cheaper than Shkreli’s original product.
Of course, the students’ project could not go unnoticed by the ex-hedge fund manager, who declared in a Twitter post that his product has the highest purity and yield and compared the students’ project to a lowly cooking game.
Martin Shkreli went even further when he attempted to compare the students working on the project with Ahmed Mohamed, the teen whose school project was mistaken for a bomb.
There are quite a few lessons to be learned here. Probably the most important one is that there’s always another way to make something, even though someone tells you otherwise.
Image source: Wikipedia
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