In case you’ve been wondering what Martin Shkreli has been up to, here’s a look at his recent appearance at a meeting put on by the folks at Forbes. “Unrepentant” would be an appropriate adjective, although I can think of some others, along with some richly descriptive nouns. He has been backing out of his statements about lowering the price of Daraprim, the compound that made him famous, and says that he mainly regrets not setting it even higher at first. So there you have it.
Meanwhile, he’s bought a just-about-defunct company, KaloBios, and that’s been a rather jumpy affair:
The new direction follows a meteoric rise in KaloBios’ stock price since a group led by Shkreli last month bought about 70 percent of the South San Francisco company. Until that point, KaloBios was a poster child for the risks of biotech investing, thanks to failed clinical trials and failed attempts to raise additional funds. The company, which raised $70 million in an initial public offering in January 2013, said early last month that it would close its doors, and its stock fell to as low as 44 cents. Then Shkreli came along. . .In picking up KaloBios, he played up the promise of the company’s experimental leukemia-fighting drug lenzilumab, and Thursday he said KaloBios had signed a deal to buy an experimental treatment for Chagas disease from a company called Savant Neglected Diseases LLC.
The resulting squeeze really hammered the people who were unfortunate enough to be short the stock, which until then had looked like it was heading into the trash bin. An outside observer might see this as a chance to pick up a stock market listing on the cheap, without the scrutiny that would (or should) accompany an IPO. And moving into Chagas disease might similarly be seen as a chance to pick up a Priority Review Voucher from the FDA, an asset that can be resold if desired. The compound in question is benznidazole, a nitroimidazole that has been around as a Chagas therapy for many years now. I would not be able refer to it as an “experimental” Chagas therapy with a straight face.
In fact, this appears to be yet another loophole-seeking exercise, where Shkreli’s company can take a compound that is already known to work and is already a recognized therapy, run it through the US regulatory process, where it’s never been approved, and then clean up by collecting a priority review voucher for what is basically a riskless trial. Shkreli has what can fairly be described as an unusual personality, which is well on display in the videos that he’s uploaded, and he’s also unusually attuned to this sort of maneuvering.
Update: if you’d actually like to see Shkreli in action at the Forbes conference, it’s here.