ENLO PARK, Calif. — The anarchist grew animated as he explained his plan to subvert a pillar of global capitalism by teaching the poor to make their own medicines — pharmaceutical industry patents be damned.
Then he took another sip from a flute of Taittinger Champagne.
Swaggering, charismatic, and complex, Michael Laufer has become a fixture in the growing biohacker movement ever since he published plans last year for a do-it-yourself EpiPencil — a $35 alternative to the pricey EpiPen.
It’s not clear whether anyone has actually ever used a homemade EpiPencil to prevent anaphylactic shock. But that seems almost an afterthought to Laufer’s bigger goal — trying to build a DIY movement to attack high pharma pricing and empower patients.
The de facto leader behind the leaderless collective Four Thieves Vinegar, Laufer is now on to his next project: He’s developing a desktop lab and a recipe book meant to equip patients to cook up a range of medicines, including a homemade version of the expensive hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, on their kitchen counters.
Health professionals have strenuously warned against DIY pharmaceuticals, but Laufer sees his work as a moral crusade against the patent laws and market forces that let drug companies price vital remedies out of reach for many patients.