Sydney high school students have produced the anti-parasite drug Daraprim in their school lab. Daraprim is the World Health Organization-listed essential medicine whose price pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli raised by 5,000 percent last year, sparking global outrage and leading him to be dubbed “the most hated man in the world”. The students have demonstrated how cheaply and easily the life-saving drug can be produced.
The University of Sydney's Open Source Malaria Consortium attempts to use treatment methods that already exist, but are not fully utilized, to prevent and cure malaria. The consortium has an outreach program with Sydney Grammar School.
For this year's project the Consortium's Dr Alice Williamson had a group of year 11 students attempt to produce Daraprim, which achieved fame last year when, despite being long out of patent, Shkreli raised the price from $13.50 per pill to $750.
Daraprim is manufactured using 2,4-chlorophenyl acetonitrile, an easily available and cheap chemical, but conventional methods involve reagents too dangerous for the students to use.
With advice from Williamson, their chemistry teachers, and scientists around the world with an interest in open source medicine, the students found a safe way to turn 2,4-chlorophenyl acetonitrile into Daraprim in their school lab. Williamson confirmed its purity using a spectrograph last week and the work was presented at the New South Wales Chemistry symposium, the day before World AIDS Day.
The ingredients and the outcome of the students' project. Alice Williamson