Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical executive and possible goblin-kobold hybrid best known for acquiring the rights to and jacking up the price of HIV drug Daraprim before scoring seven years in a cell for securities fraud, is trying to get out of prison by claiming he might be of use in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Per Stat, Shkreli has requested a three-month furlough, claiming that his experience in the pharmaceuticals industry qualifies him to search for treatments for covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In a science paper written alongside two business partners and two “citizen scientists,” Shkreli claimed to be one of the only pharma execs capable of overseeing “ALL aspects” of drug development:
As a successful two-time biopharma entrepreneur, having purchased multiple companies, invented multiple new drug candidates, filed numerous INDs and clinical trial applications, I am one of the few executives experienced in ALL aspects of drug development from molecule creation and hypothesis generatiom to preclinical assessments and clinical trial design/target engagement demonstration, and manufacturing/synthesis and global logistics and deployment of medicines.
Shkreli further claimed that he had not been paid to participate in the paper and denied he believed the developers of a covid-19 treatment should seek to turn a profit on it. The paper itself posits to have used a software technique to whittle down over 100,000 possible treatments for the virus to just nine, according to Stat, though medicinal chemist Derek Lowe told the site it is “not crazy, but neither is it particularly groundbreaking, either, at least to my eyes.”
“...We’re not setting up another Manhattan Project, and we’re not looking for another Robert Oppenheimer, either,” Lowe told Stat. “But from the tone of his comments, I’m not sure if he realizes either of those points.”
Shkreli is currently serving time in USP Allenwood, a maximum security federal prison in Pennsylvania, after being convicted of fraud for ripping off investors in two hedge funds and lying about one of his companies to inflate its stock price. (The charges weren’t related to his decision to jack up the price of Daraprim by 5,000 percent.) The Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal in the case.
During his time in prison, Shkreli was reportedly put in solitary for attempting to control a firm called Pheonixus AG (a rebrand of his old company, Turing Pharmaceuticals) from his prison cell. When he was last in the news earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General’s office were suing Phoenixus subsidiary Vyera Pharmaceuticals, as well as its co-owners Shkreli and Kevin Mulleady, for allegedly enacting an “elaborate and anticompetitive scheme” to raise the price of Daraprim. According to the suit, Vyera and its executives tried to block competitors from making a generic equivalent of the drug by denying them access to samples and ingredients. Shkreli denies any wrongdoing.