Brain and Body

Teens Recreated 3.7 Grams of Controversial Daraprim Drug’s Key Ingredient for Just $20

December 1, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: Chris Potter/Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

In the United States, that would sell for between $35,000 and $110,000 USD.

Daraprim is a drug used to treat serious parasite infections (namely, toxoplasmosis) in the body, brain, or eye, and its active ingredient, pyrimethamine, can help those with weak immune systems, like pregnant women and HIV patients, fight off the infections.

“Daraprim” may not ring a bell, but surely the name Martin Shkreli does — the controversial former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who gained rights over the Daraprim drug and hiked its price from $13.50 per tablet to $750 back in August 2015.

For reference, Daraprim pills are sold in most countries for $1 or $2 per pill, according to ABC News.

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Now, as Forbes so artfully stated it, high schoolers from Sydney Grammar in Australia have “punched Martin Shkreli in the face, figuratively.”

Working in their school laboratory, the 17-year-olds managed to recreate 3.7 grams of the drug’s key ingredient for just $20 USD.

In fact, the students claim to have taken on the task in order to show just how “ridiculous” the inflated prices in the US are, student Milan Leonard tells ABC News.

Alice Williamson, a research chemist at the University of Sydney, supported the students’ work on Open Source Malaria — an online research-sharing platform.

She explains that the original recipe to make the molecule was found in a patent referenced on Wikipedia, but that it had one step that involved a highly dangerous chemical.

"The boys had to navigate a difficult step and do this in a different way, and they've managed to do that, and they've managed to do that in their high school laboratory,” she said.

After a year of obstacles, Leonard describes the moment when the boys realized they’d successfully recreated the drug: "After all of this time spent working and chemistry being such a high and low, after all the lows, after all the downs, being able to make this drug, it was pure bliss."

They hope their work “can actually help people out there,” says fellow student Brandon Lee.

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