Students made a cheap version of life saving malaria medicine

High school students working with Open Source Malaria group have reproduced the active ingredient in Daraprim for $US20 in their high school lab.

NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA – Seventeen year old Sydney Grammar students have reproduced an essential medicine in their high school laboratories. The high school students have created 3.7 grams of an active ingredient used in the medicine Daraprim for $US20, which would sell in the United States for between $US35,000 and $US110,000.

The drug has been the subject of controversy when the price rose from $US13.50 per tablet to $US750 in August 2015 as Turing Pharmaceuticals, and its CEO, Martin Shkreli, acquired the drug’s exclusive rights and hiked up the price.

With teachers, Malcolm Binns and Erin Sheridan and under the supervision of the University of Sydney’s, Dr Alice Williamson and Associate Professor Matthew Todd, the high school students have engaged with the global members of the Open Source Malaria consortium to make Daraprim in the laboratory using inexpensive starting materials.

Dr Williamson from the School of Chemistry said the scientific community could provide advice and guidance to the students online in real time. Scientists anywhere in the world were able to view all the data generated and mentor the students to accelerate the science.

The project puts a spin on the scenario of a high school teacher working alongside their students to make drugs, from the plot of the hit series, Breaking Bad. The Sydney Grammar students and Open Source Malaria consortium have a very different plan – Breaking Good. The life-saving medicine, Daraprim was originally used as an antimalarial, and is listed by the World Health Organisation as an essential medicine.

The students presented their results at the Royal Australian Chemical Institute NSW Organic Chemistry symposium, alongside honours and postgraduate students and postdoctorals.

Image: courtesy of University of Sydney

More Information:

Erin Sheridan on Twitter @ChemistryErin
Matthew Todd on Twitter @MatToddChem

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