Martin Shkreli — the infamous ex-pharma executive fresh out of jail after his 2017 fraud conviction — announced his latest eyebrow-raising venture on Monday: creating a blockchain-based “Web3 drug discovery platform” that trades in its own cryptocurrency, MSI. , also known as Martin Shkreli Inu.
The platform, which is still in the early stages of development, is called Druglike, according to a press release circulated Monday. The platform’s goals are ostensibly lofty, but the details are extremely sketchy, and Shkreli’s intentions have already sparked skepticism. It’s also unclear whether the company will breach Shkreli’s lifetime ban on the pharmaceutical industry, which resulted from the abrupt and callous 4,000 percent price hike of a life-saving drug that made him infamous.
Shkreli, who is mentioned as co-founder of drug-like, says the platform aims to make early-stage drug discovery more affordable and accessible. “Druglike will remove barriers to early-stage drug discovery, increase innovation and allow a wider group of employees to share the rewards,” Shkreli said in the press release. “Underserved and underfunded communities, such as those targeting rare diseases or in emerging markets, will also benefit from access to these tools.”
In general, early stage drug development may sometimes involve virtual screens to identify potential drug candidates. In these cases, pharmaceutical scientists first identify a “target” – a specific compound or protein that plays a critical role in the development of a disease or condition. Next, researchers look for compounds or small molecules that can interfere with that target, sometimes binding directly to the target or “docking” it in a way that prevents it from functioning. This can be done in physical labs using huge libraries of compounds in high throughput chemical screens. But it can also be done virtually, using specialized software and a lot of computing power, which can be labor intensive.
Concepts and questions
That’s where Shkreli’s Druglike would come in. In a white paper posted to Druglike’s website, Shkreli associate Jason Sommer explains some concepts for how the company’s platform would work. Essentially, it would use a decentralized computer network of task providers, solvers and validators who would perform and optimize the virtual screening of drug candidates. The white paper bears similarities to FoldIt, an online puzzle game that essentially uses distributed computing and crowdsourcing to fold proteins and predict their structures.
But Druglike’s platform is touted for incorporating blockchain concepts and cryptocurrency transactions as users complete tasks such as docking screens. For example, the article describes a “proof-of-optimization” concept as a “new” blockchain-based verification step for screening work similar to Bitcoin’s “proof-of-work” method.
“We propose a blockchain-based implementation of Proof-of-Optimization, where a distributed ledger keeps track of which proof solutions belong to which Solvers. Smart contracts ensure the secure distribution of rewards to the Solver who owns the verified proof,” writes. Summer in the newspaper.
But for now, the white paper only loosely describes these concepts, and it’s unclear how the cryptocurrency transactions will generate value. It’s also unclear how the project will be funded, though an online exchange suggested the company could look… for venture capital financing.
On Twitter, where Shkreli has been banned, he currently has an account like Enrique Hernandez @zkEnrique7. From there, Shkreli announced the company on Monday and organized a conversation about the project.
In that conversation, he scoffed at the idea that the platform would violate his lifetime ban on the pharmaceutical industry, saying the project only involves software development, not drugs. “Writing code in Github and hitting ‘go’ doesn’t make you a pharmaceutical company,” he said.