SYDNEY, Australia – Students at the Sydney Grammar School are putting “the most hated man in America” in his place by recreating his outrageously overpriced antiparasitic drug for a sliver of the cost.
Martin Shkreli became the poster boy for greed when his pharmaceutical company purchased the manufacturing license for Daraprim, a drug used to treat AIDS and malaria patients, and dialed up the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill overnight.
“If there was a company that was selling an Aston Martin at the price of a bicycle, and we buy that company and we ask to charge Toyota prices, I don’t think that that should be a crime,” he said in September 2015, according to Business Insider.
Just over a year later, students at the Sydney Grammar School demonstrated that Shkreli’s business plan is more like a shady car salesman selling generic hatchbacks at the price of a Lamborghini.
A group of motivated teens synthesized 3.7 grams of Daraprim’s key ingredient, pyrimethamine, as an after school chemistry project, at a price of about $2 per pill, CTVnews reports.
“Working on a real-world problem definitely made us more enthusiastic,” 17-year-old student Austin Zhang told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The background to this made it seem more important,” classmate James Wood added.
University of Sydney chemist Alice Williamson, who oversaw the work, said students were tasked with using publicly available ingredients to treat malaria as part of an after-school project, and Shkreli’s scandal provided the motivation.
“We started off with 20 grams of it worth $20, and we ended up with $37,000 worth of Daraprim … in one reaction,” Wood said. “So we really hope this just makes a point about the nature of the pharmaceutical industry and the way drugs are patented and sold for absurdly high prices when they should be being used to treat life-threatening illnesses.”
Daraprim is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines because it’s used to treat malaria, those undergoing chemotherapy or living with HIV, CTVnews reports.
“If anyone can do it and it’s so cheap, it highlights why it shouldn’t be $750 a dose,” Williamson told the Morning Herald.
Shkreli responded to the students’ work in a series of Twitter replies to people heckling him about it online.
“How you like them applies @MartinShkreli,” Luke Gamon wrote.
“lol,” Shkreli wrote back.
“Nice one, boys! Sydney schoolkids show up Martin Shkreli by making a malaria drug for $2 that he charged $750 for,” Neda Vanovac posted, along with a link.
“lol how is that showing up anyone? almost any drug can be made at small scale for a low price,” Shkreli responded. “glad it makes u feel good tho.”
@Scottyt2Hottie yea uh anyone can make any drug it is pretty ez
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) December 1, 2016
In another tweet, Shkreli claimed “yea uh anyone can make any drug it is pretty ez.”
University of Sydney Professor Matthew Todd, founder of the Open Source Malaria Consortium that partnered with Sydney Grammar School on the project, put the situation into perspective for the Morning Herald.
“On one hand you have Mr. Shkreli who bought a known thing and raised the price.
“On the other you have school kids who have made this thing in their spare time with their teacher. They had to develop stuff and really work on it.
“You tell me which one of those is innovative,” he said.