Free From Prison, the Pharma Bro Is Now a Crypto Pharma Bro

Free From Prison, the Pharma Bro Is Now a Crypto Pharma Bro
Martin Shkreli was arrested in New York City in 2015 for securities fraud. (Image: Andrew Burton, Getty Images)

If there’s one thing we can trust Martin Shkreli to do, it’s revolutionise the healthcare industry. The disgraced pharmaceutical executive is now behind a Web3 based drug discovery platform called Druglike, that seeks to increase the accessibility of drug discovery through decentralized computing.

The pharmaceutical industry is a greedy industry that cashes in on vulnerable populations and is in desperate need of a revolution. But in a cruel twist of fate, the man that’s interested in that revolution is none other than Martin Shkreli. You may remember him as the guy who raised the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000%. The predatory pharmaceutical executive also just recently finished a stint in prison. He’s now the cofounder of a new company called Druglike, which apparently looks to democratize the costs of drug discovery (drug discovery is a subfield of pharmacology that seeks to identify new drugs) via decentralized computing.

“We started Druglike because in our experience, traditional drug discovery software is too difficult and expensive to use,” said Shkreli, cofounder of Druglike, in a press release. “Druglike will remove barriers to early-stage drug discovery, increase innovation and allow a broader group of contributors to share the rewards. Underserved and underfunded communities, such as those focused on rare diseases or in developing markets, will also benefit from access to these tools.”

OK, so we have a shady ex-pharmaceutical executive known for doing the opposite of democratizing the costs of medicine joining forces with a digital infrastructure that doesn’t even really exist yet…what could go wrong? Druglike argues that an average $US1.3 ($2) billion is spent on the discovery and development of a single FDA-approved drug, citing a 2020 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and that drug discovery typically occurs on cloud computing, which can cost various institutions an exorbitant amount of money. This barrier to entry can gatekeep the industry from smaller companies and researchers. Druglike claims they can breakup the intensive computer work to different “nodes” via a “blockchain-based” network.

What Druglike gets right is that the healthcare research industry is incredibly expensive and difficult to break into, meaning that pharmaceutical companies now have an incentive to recoup those costs however they want. But are we just going to ignore the fact that Martin Shkreli is a cofounder of this company?