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Australian Students Synthesize Daraprim for Just $2

DEC 03, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
Nonetheless, in February, a group of students from Sydney Grammar, a high school in Sydney, Australia, were given the opportunity to work with University of Sydney’s Alice Williamson, a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the School of Chemistry, and with Open Source Malaria to develop a more economic-friendly generic for Daraprim. The students purchased 17 grams of materials for only $15. Using the patent recipe, the students worked with their science teachers on the drug. According to a Washington Post article, the group “posted all of their work online periodically through Open Source Malaria, which allowed scientists to provide them with guidance and feedback.”
The group completed their work on the drug in November, and it was taken to be tested at the university. The molecular fingerprint and the crystal’s melting point were found to be complementary to those of Daraprim. According to Dr. Williamson, the drug the students created was a “very pure sample of the medicine… which is a challenge.” The materials the students bought were able to come up with 3.7 grams of Daraprim, which, in the US market, would sell for a little over $100,000.
Outside of the United States, Daraprim is quite inexpensive. In Australia, for example, 50 pills cost $12.99. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, although the drug is currently not protected by the patent, a loophole called the “closed distribution model” allows Turing Pharmaceuticals to control Daraprim drug sales in the United States. Meaning, if Shkreli does not allow the drug the students created to be tested against Daraprim in order to validate it as a generic, the drug must be tested in new clinical trials, which requires funding.
Shkreli released a video statement on Monday, December 1, in response to this news. In it, he said, “I’m delighted to hear about more and more students entering the STEM field. These Australian students are proof that the 21st century economy will solve problems of human suffering through science and technology… Medical science has brought tremendous advances in cancer, mental health, autoimmune disorders, and many others. Technology has lowered the costs of a myriad of goods and services dramatically. We should congratulate these students for their interest in chemistry, and I’ll be excited for what is to come in the STEM-focused 21st century.”
The students were able to present their work at the annual Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s NSW Organic Chemistry Symposium. This is quite an achievement considering the typical presenters at the Symposium are usually postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers. So far, there has been no word on what the next project will be for the student researchers.
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