'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli meets his match in a group of Australian schoolboys

The dedicated young chemistry students worked through their lunch breaks and before and after school.

Story highlights

  • Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750
  • Now some 17-year-olds have replicated it in their Sydney school lab for just $20

(CNN)They christened their project "Breaking Good."

Inspired by outrage over a big pharma company's decision to hike the price of a lifesaving drug, eight Sydney schoolboys recreated it in their chemistry lab for just $20 a pill.
    The drug, Daraprim, is produced by Turing Pharmaceuticals, which came under fire last year when chief executive Martin Shkreli raised the price by 5,000% from $13.50 to $750 a tablet in the US.
    The anti-parasitic medicine is used to treat malaria and it also helps people with low immune systems, such as chemotherapy patients and those with HIV.
    The group of 17-year-olds from Sydney Grammar School worked with scientists from the University of Sydney to replicate the drug, which is named on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines.
    The boys did a very good job according to a University of Sydney scientist who tested the results.
    They were so committed they came to school early, left late and worked through their lunch breaks on the project, which left their tutors amazed.

    Highlighting the iniquity

    "This Daraprim story has been ingrained in lots of people's minds. I thought 'what if we can get these boys to show you can make it from cheap materials and that relatively inexperienced young scientists can make it?'" Dr. Alice Williamson told CNN. She's a chemist at the University of Sydney who worked with the schoolboys.
    "Not only would the boys be involved in an exciting research project, maybe it would be a way to highlight the iniquity [of the price hike].
    Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer for Turing Pharmaceuticals, became notorious.
    "We knew it was a good story and the boys have done a good job. It's really captured people's imaginations. They made a very pure sample of the active ingredient."
    The project was christened "Breaking Good" -- a play on the name of the American crime drama television series Breaking Bad, about a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who turns to crime, making crystal meth to raise money for his family.