Birds of a feather...

Sep 22 2015 Published by under Staring in Disbelief

Some of you may have been following the news about venture capitalist Martin Shkreli who decided

to raise the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750.

Mr. Shkreli has gone on to enrage basically everybody by defending his moves on social media and traditional media with, shall we say, aplomb.

Then one of the scitweeps remembered something interesting:

What?

Yep.

Of the $2 million seed money, New York-based Retrophin and the Wilsey family foundation in San Francisco have combined to contribute about one-third. The rest has come from angel funders in increments of $10,000 to $400,000, Perlstein says.

Perlstein first caught Retrophin CEO Martin Shkreli’s attention on Twitter, and their exchange led to a meeting at the J.P. Morgan conference in San Francisco.

Sounds like the start of a beautiful relationship.

23 responses so far

  • Chall says:

    Well, there might be something coming out of this? Although, the cost of drugs was on the table when the people realized the drug cost for cure of hep c.... And nothing has happened so far. It is (IMHO) a HUGE problem that have happened for a long time now, the pharma companies not competing with eachother but rather divvying up the market. Like antibiotic research (not much attention), vaccines etc. hence only one company being the provider of one drug. That's extremly vulnerable for people, especially (obvs) less super rich people (and governments).

    Considering Europe hasnt "solved" this either, it would be interesting to see if American regulations could move this ahead a little. If nothing else, at least have some discussion about ratio "profit vs pay back".

    As for the guy's attitude and history, I'll just be quiet. Although, I'm happy im not working in the Perlstein lab. I'm a nervous person and especially since I watched "print that legend" last week about start ups and leaving the more humanistic/altruistic view for the pure capitalistic concept.

  • dr24hours says:

    Oh please. This company put up about a third of the $2M seed, according to the article. I don't believe for an instant that anyone reading or writing here would turn down some $700K in lab funds because the company had an asshole CEO.

    It's easy to be sanctimonious when no one's offering you big money. But when there's a briefcase full of money in front of us? We take it and say, "thank you," and rationalize it however we have to.

    "At least this way the asshole's money is doing some good!" would work for me.

  • Ola says:

    Let's be clear about this - "birds" is a polite euphemism for "insufferable cocks" right?
    Does not surprise me in the slightest.
    Now let's see if we can have a competition to see who can get on Shrek's twitter block-list!

  • Y.A.L. says:

    Speaking of conflicts of interest, I've been wondering if you've been following the Risperdal "docuserial" over at

    highline.huffingtonpost.com

    sign me,
    Yet another lurker

  • duke of neural says:

    I know you and @eperlste had a thing about his postdoc mentor and he eventually apologized. I assume your beef with him goes beyond that one incident and him getting money from a horrible person?

    I'll be honest, I might react irrationally to something negative being said about a friend or mentor, and I would DEFINITELY take as much money from Shrek as I could, assuming I didn't have to give anything in return.

  • jmz4 says:

    I always thought self-aggrandizing sociopaths couldn't make friends. Good for them for breaking from the stereotype.

  • I would DEFINITELY take as much money from Shrek as I could, assuming I didn't have to give anything in return.

    Do you understand that this means that Shkrelfucke owns a large fraction of Perldouche's company?

  • zb says:

    "I would DEFINITELY take as much money from Shrek as I could, assuming I didn't have to give anything in return."

    You always have to give something in return.

  • zb says:

    And, on the price of pharmaceuticals -- there's weird rent-seeking going on, rent-seeking in the sense of government funds and rules distorting the market. I first understood a little bit when I heard about the private foundations drug companies set up to offer the drugs at lower cost to some uncovered individuals (funded largely by the drug companies, who are using the donated money to pay themselves for their product). Patient advocates are beholden and enormously grateful to the company, but, the practice props of the drug costs so that insurers have less ability to negotiate costs (and, of course, Medicare is legally prevented from negotiating). The model is selective pricing with government playing a big role.

    Another big problem is the minor alterations of drugs and the broken patent system. I'm hoping that the trends of BRCA gene, Happy Birthday song copyright, India disallowing a minor alteration patent are trends towards the law intervening to balance the rights of intellectual property holders with the interests of the public.

    I wasn't really aware of the divvying up the market, but, I can see how that would be a useful practice in an industry where a product is protected by patent law (in addition to the natural incentive of a highly specialized development process).

  • boehninglab says:

    Earlier tweets by @jplotkin:

    https://twitter.com/jplotkin/status/645791998818054144
    https://twitter.com/jplotkin/status/645793305331167232

    We follow each other, but I hadn't seen them or I would have credited him. H/T to @AListScientist

  • drugmonkey says:

    Very scholarly Dr. Boehning!

  • drugmonkey says:

    http://www.newsweek.com/martin-shkreli-drug-manipulation-daraprim-retrophin-375416

    In case anyone was wondering where the annoying puppy got his money in the first place....

  • Pippso says:

    Can someone explain in a few words what happened in the past and why most people hate Perldouche? I am really curious and relatively new to this part of the internet so honestly have no idea

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    I'm not sure anyone hates Perldouche. I think it's more that people find him ridiculous.

  • None says:

    Yeah, "hate" is a strong word but when he referred to some people as "libtards", I decided that he wasn't someone I was interested in interacting with.

  • jmz4 says:

    I'm not sure about the PIs around here, but I think it's because he's sort of the ultimate disgruntledoc.

    But I dislike him because of this:

    http://www.ethanperlstein.com/ (-entries therein)

    http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2015_03_10/caredit.a1500058

    http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2013_05_17/caredit.a1300107

    He comes of as an petulant, faux-iconoclast who ironically holds up his own academic pedigree and failure to accomplish as the definitive evidence that the system is broken.

  • kalevala says:

    Why crowdfund when you can crowdgouge and crowdswindle?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Now, now..... Just because there was nothing that resulted from the meth/yeast crowdfunded research project is that any reason for those who donated to get mad? You made his rep as a crowdfunded scientist! That got him all kinds of media play.

  • jmz4 says:

    If you're going to crowdswindle you might as well target the right demographic. I'm thinking I could pay myself a nice two month vacation by crowdfunding a "serious inquiry into theory of evolution", do some research for a week or two, write up a nice review saying "yep, it's all on the up and up" and then pack my bags for a beach.

  • Pippso says:

    I wonder if that meth/yeast thing is still going though - I always thought Sulzer is an ok guy

  • Grumble says:

    Sulzer is more than an OK guy. He's both an amazing scientist and a fascinating person with many interests and abilities outside of science.

  • Newbie PI says:

    I can pinpoint the exact moment I developed my hatred for Perlstein. For me it was while reading his "Postdocalypse" blog post, the one that got him all the notoriety. There was one quote that really irritated me:

    "Almost every single assistant professor I know has admitted that it was dumb luck, idiosyncratic departmental tastes or plain old academic tribalism that landed them their job..."

    What really irritates me is that when he was chosen to become a fully funded PI at Princeton right out of grad school, I doubt he chalked it up to idiosyncratic tastes or dumb luck or the fact that he came from an Ivy League BSD lab. Surely it was because of his brilliance and accomplishments. But when he choked during this five-year Princeton stint and had virtually no record of where the million dollars went, well then the system is broken! Did he ever stop to think that maybe "almost every single assistant professor" who told him they got their job because of dumb luck was just being humble and didn't have the heart to tell him that he blew his chance?

    After being involved in some faculty searches this year, I will say that the job market is actually waaaayyyyy better than it was a few years ago. My uni is competing with so many other departments this year that we didn't even get all that many applications. There's a really simple formula if you want to get a faculty job at an R1 school: 1) Have two IF>7 papers in recent years, 2) have over-the-top amazing letters from three people, 3) have reasonable experiments planned for the future, and 4) don't be abrasive or smug when you interview. Perlstein probably had the letters.

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