Who can save us from sickness and despair in these difficult times? Of course, none other than Martin Shkreli.
Yes, the widely despised ex-pharmaceutical executive currently serving a seven-year federal prison sentence for fraud is, in fact, the only true savior of mankind … if only we let him get out of prison for a few months.
In a brief document released online this week, Shkreli and a small group of associates present scientific plans to develop a cure for COVID-19.
Many other drug developers – those who are do not in the slammer – are also working on treatments and vaccines to fight COVID-19. But these response efforts are “insufficient,” says Shkreli. And only he is qualified to do the job well.
“I am one of the few executives experienced in ALL aspects of drug development, from the creation of molecules and the generation of hypotheses, to preclinical evaluations and the design of clinical trials / demonstration of target engagement , manufacturing / synthesis and global logistics and deployment of drugs, ”he wrote in a note at the end of the document.
In short, he must be out of the pokey to be able to save the world.
“I ask for a short leave (3 months) to help with the research on COVID-19,” he wrote, adding that this temporary freedom will not be a treat. “Being released in the post-COVID world is not comfort for even the incarcerated. “
In the remainder of the document, Shkreli, two business associates and two people listed as “citizen scientists” describe the work in a fairly standard way to identify drug candidates. They used computer models to try to search public libraries of compounds to find drug candidates. They looked for compounds that, based on their modeling, could target a key enzyme in SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The enzyme they targeted in their screening is an essential viral enzyme called RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. This is what SARS-CoV-2 uses to make copies of its own genetic material. It is also a common viral target. The experimental antiviral drug remdesivir targets this polymerase, for example.
Shkreli and colleagues report finding eight existing drugs that could counter SARS-CoV-2. Clofazimine, an antibiotic used to treat leprosy, leads the eight candidates.
“From here, many different research projects are currently underway, including continuing current work around the computer and manual design of analogs for high-performance compounds such as clofazimine,” write Shkreli et al. colleagues.
The document was published by Prospero Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company Shkreli and longtime co-founder of Kevin Mulleady. Mulleady is the second author of the document.
Overall, their plan is “not crazy,” said Derek Lowe, a well-known medical chemist and blogger in the pharmaceutical industry. But in comments to biotech media Stat, Lowe says the unsavory savior plan isn’t “particularly revolutionary either, at least in my eyes.”
In other words, it is unlikely to be a card without release from prison.