Pharma bad-boy Shkreli quits Turing after fraud charges

Martin Shkreli leaving federal court in New York on Dec 17.
Martin Shkreli leaving federal court in New York on Dec 17.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (AFP) - Reviled United States pharmaceutical and hedge fund figure Martin Shkreli resigned as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals on Friday (Dec 18), a day after his arrest on fraud charges, the company said.

"We wish to thank Martin for helping us build Turing Pharmaceuticals into the dynamic research-focused company it is today, and wish him the best in his future endeavors," Ron Tilles, who was appointed as Turing interim chief executive, said in a statement.

US police officials arrested Shkreli on Thursday (Dec 17) and charged him with a brazen fraud scheme in which he lied to investors, moved money between investments to cover losses in other vehicles and siphoned off cash for personal expenses.

The allegations concern Shkreli's activities from 2009-2014 at another company and two hedge funds, prior to his career at Turing.

On Thursday (Dec 17), Turing released a statement that said the allegations against Shkreli "are personal and have no bearing on Turing Pharmaceuticals." Shkreli denied the charges in court and was released after posting US$5 million (S$7 million) bond.

Shkreli, 32, rose to infamy earlier this year after he, as founder and CEO of Turing, bought rights to toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim and promptly raised the price from US$13.50 a tablet to US$750.

The move - and Shkreli's arrogant response to the controversy - was angrily denounced by US politicians, including Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

Acting chief Tilles, who is also Turing's chairman, vowed to make Daraprim affordable.

"We remain committed to ensuring that all patients have ready and affordable access to Daraprim," he said.

"Turing Pharmaceuticals is poised for great success in the coming years." Shkreli, who has built a heavy presence on social media, chatted with viewers and played Internet chess in a livestream broadcast Friday (Dec 18) afternoon.

"Thanks for your support," Shkreli told some 800 viewers on the Youtube broadcast. "I can't talk about the allegations." Shkreli is also chief executive of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, which has not commented on his arrest. Shares of KaloBios remained suspended Friday (Dec 18) for the second day in a row.