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‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli Says He’s the One Who Can Save Us from Coronavirus


What would a medical disaster be without someone opportunistically taking advantage of public hysteria? And boy, do we already have the right guy for the job. “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, master of medical mayhem, has offered himself as the cure for coronavirus.

Right now, Shkreli is in a federal penitentiary in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, serving out his seven-year sentence for securities fraud. He just asked for a three-month furlough so that he can research treatments for COVID-19.

In a paper published online, Shkreli called the industry response to COVID-19 “inadequate.” He argued:

All biopharmaceutical companies should be responding with all resources to combat this health emergency. Donations from these very valuable companies do not go far enough. The biopharmaceutical industry has a large braintrust of talent that is not working on this problem as companies have deprioritized or even abandoned infectious disease research. Medicinal chemists, structural biologists, enzymologists and assay development and research biology departments at EVERY pharmaceutical company should be put to work until COVID-19 is no more.

The blockquote above is part of an “author statement” attributed to Shkreli (we’ll get to more of his comments in a moment). There are other names on the paper, but Shkreli was one of two credited for “designing and managing the project.”

Shkreli lamented that “[b]eing released to the post-COVID world is no solace to even the incarcerated.” He cast himself as the one of the only people—if not the only person–who could save the day:

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 generation, to preclinical assessments and clinical trial design/target engagement demonstration, and manufacturing/synthesis and global logistics and deployment of medicines.

Departing from his past propensity to profit at the expense of the sick, Shkreli explained that he does “not expect to profit in any way, shape or form from coronavirus-related treatments.” He even preached that “any company developing a coronavirus drug should seek to recoup its cost at most and be willing to perform the work as a civil service at the least.” Perhaps “rehabilitation” isn’t just a made up word.

Shkreli and his colleagues say that they’ve already used software to screen more than 100,000 compounds as potentially helpful against the coronavirus; they claimed to have narrowed things down to a list of eight available drugs that might successfully combat the virus.

The paper, produced by Prospero Pharmaceuticals, was co-authored with Kevin Mulleady. Mulleady was Shkreli’s business partner, who (at least according to New York Attorney General Letitia James), worked with Shkreli to illegally maintain a monoplly for the drug Daraprim.

Although Shkreli has often been referred to as “the most-hated man on earth,” quarantine seems to have changed at least a few attitudes.

While #FreeShkreli builds up up steam, Skhreli’s request is being met with some peak Twitter snark.

[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos