Last week, we caught our client Open Source Malaria on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. They, along with eight high school students from Sydney Grammar School, walked Ronny Chieng through how technology can change the world for better. Check out the video clip!
In 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired Daraprim, an essential medicine according to the World Health Organization, and overnight raised the price from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. While originally used as an antimalarial, Daraprim, is more widely used as an anti-parasitic treatment for toxoplasmosis—a potentially dangerous disease for pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.
The students took on the challenge of reproducing Daraprim to highlight how drug monopolies prey on compromised populations. They named their chemistry project Breaking Good in a nod to the television series Breaking Bad, where a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher turns to crime, using chemistry to raise money for his family. A year later working in their high school laboratory and using inexpensive starting materials, the students reproduced Daraprim.
Open Source Malaria lowers barriers for researchers, including students, to work on real research problems that impact human health. Scientists around the world could view all the data generated by the students and mentor them, reducing the time to perfect the science. Sadly, as Turing Pharmaceuticals has the exclusive rights to the malaria drug and due to FDA regulations, the students are unable to sell their medicine.
We can’t wait to see what other innovations are possible when open source principles are applied to medicine.