Open Source Malaria Helps Students with Proof of Concept Toxoplasmosis Pill

Paul Mutter | Geek Time | December 3, 2016

A team of Australian student researchers at Sydney Grammar School has managed to recreate the formula for Daraprim, the drug made (in)famous by the actions of Turing Pharmaceuticals last year when it increased the price substantially per pill. According to Futurism, the undertaking was helped along by an, “online research-sharing platform called Open Source Malaria [OSM], which aims to use publicly available drugs and medical techniques to treat malaria.”

The students’ pill passed a battery of tests for purity, and ultimately cost $2 using different, more readily available components. It shows the potential of the platform, which has said elsewhere there is, “enormous potential to crowdsource new potential medicines efficiently.” Although Daraprim is already around, that it could be synthesized relatively easily without the same materials as usual is a good sign for OSM. Ex-CEO Martin Shkreli, who oversaw the 2015 price hike, responded to the story by tweeting, “Dumb journalists want a feel good story,” and then groused about the sunk costs in the equipment and the team’s education.

But the issue has never really been that the drug is extremely expensive to produce in terms of the chemicals needed, or even things like the sunk costs that go into the labs and personnel who design and test drugs. The students’ effort is technically impressive, to be sure, in light of their age and ingenuity, but the bigger problem has to do with the distribution, not production, model for Daraprim in the US, where Shkreli’s (former) company has exclusive marketing rights...