Convicted 'pharma bro' Martin Shkreli wants early release to work on coronavirus cure

Lawyers for Shkreli, who is in federal prison, claim he has "devoted countless hours" to researching a cure.
Image: Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli walks with lead defense attorney Benjamin Brafman after the jury issued a verdict at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Aug. 4, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli with lead defense attorney Benjamin Brafman after a jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., convicted him on Aug. 4, 2017, on three of eight counts involving securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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By Tim Stelloh

Lawyers for "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli asked a federal judge Wednesday to release him from prison so he can help find a cure for COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus, court records show.

The documents, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., say Shkreli, 37, has "devoted countless hours" to developing a cure for the disease, which has killed nearly 45,000 people in the United States and tens of thousands more around the world.

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Shkreli is serving a seven-year sentence at a federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, after being convicted in 2017 on securities fraud and conspiracy charges. His lawyers asked in the filing that he be allowed to serve the rest of his term at home with an electronic monitor.

Shkreli, a former biotech CEO and hedge fund manager, had been accused of repeatedly lying about the performance of his funds and raiding his company's assets to provide returns to investors. He first gained notoriety in 2015 after he raised the price of a lifesaving anti-parasite drug by 5,000 percent.

Researchers working on a vaccine for COVID-19 have said one could be ready by mid-2021. In the meantime, medical scientists are examining possible cures like blood plasma transfusions and remdesivir, an antiviral drug.

In Wednesday's filing, Shkreli's lawyers say that while his work on the disease is "at a preliminary stage," he is a "skilled medical researcher" who has committed "his life's work to the life sciences and rare disease community."

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The documents say Shkreli's ideas have been reviewed by a former colleague who is "eager" to work with him, as well as a pharmaceutical company that is "prepared to contract" with a biotech firm Shkreli founded, Prospero Pharmaceuticals. The names of the colleague and the company are redacted in the documents.

A COVID-19 research paper that appears on Prospero's website lists Shkreli as a co-author.

The documents also say Shkreli should be released because he has asthma and several severe allergies. Experts have warned that the virus could "wreak havoc" on jails and prisons.