Question: how mutch does it cost to make this drug? does it have a good chance of succes? how long have you been working on the drug.

  1. At the moment, it’s 10 cents for a gram. To cure a person of the disease you need about a gram – so that’s pretty cheap! About 100 million people are currently getting the drug every year (that’s 5 x Australia’s population each year) and it’s thought that the number of people who need it is 4 times that. The drug gets rid of the nasty parasite. Sadly you’ll get re-infected if you live in the affected areas, but the reinfection’s not as bad.

    Erm. That’s a lot of drug. I’ve never seen that much of any pure chemical, apart from water. So it has to be cheap.

    You know, it’s funny. Chemists sit around and talk about chemistry quite a bit. We buy coffees, sharpen pencils and get nice bits of paper to draw on. And when we sat around to talk about making this drug we had all these lovely fancy ideas about how we could make it. Really great ideas – you know, elegant ones. And none of them were worth ZIP because they would all be way too expensive. All our great ideas were destroyed by $$$ problems.

    So anyway, yes, the drug works pretty well as-is. But our version doesn’t taste of anything (good) and doesn’t make you sick (good) and works better (this is all good) and we’ve made 10 grams of it in the lab. Now people are looking to see if we can make it on a TON scale. I’m not sure what it costs to run a factory, which is why I can’t work out whether our way of making it will be the final solution. When someone starts using it in a factory maybe they’ll find a problem and they’ll have to come back to us and say “Hey – we can’t do this bit – too expensive” and we may have to redesign it. For example one bit of our solution uses a liquid to dissolve one of the intermediates, and this liquid isn’t very nice to handle and does nasty things to fish if you tip it down the sink (we don’t). We know we need to get rid of that liquid and replace it with something like water. Little tweaks like that.

    Short answer – yes, it has a good chance of success. I’d LOVE to see it working on a ton scale one day soon.

    I first made the drug in 2000 when I was in America. I’ve been kind of messing around with it ever since. We’ve been doing this open source thing on and off since 2006, but only properly since Jan 2010 – so maybe a year and a half. The drug’s been known since 1973, but this open source thing we’re doing is super new.