Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals, delivered a speech about hedge fund management and healthcare at Harvard University on 15 February, despite protests at his appearance.
The event, hosted by the Harvard Financial Analysts Cub, was interrupted by protesters setting off a fire alarm, waving banners and organising a “teach-in” at a nearby lecture theatre.
In September 2015, Mr Shkreli was dubbed the “most hated man in America” when his company obtained the licence for Daraprim – a drug used to treat infections in HIV-positive patients – and increased its price 5,000 per cent from $13.25 (£10.61) to $750 per pill. He resigned as CEO in December 2015 after his arrest over allegations of securities fraud. He has since returned to the headlines after being invited to Donald Trump’s inauguration and being suspended from Twitter over claims that he harassed journalist Lauren Duca. A spokesman said that Mr Shkreli was “not stalking or harassing anyone”.
Under the conditions of his bail, Mr Shkreli was required to seek approval from a federal judge in order to travel to his speaking engagements. A previous event at the University of California, Davies – which was to feature Mr Shkreli alongside right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos – was cancelled half an hour before it was due to start, following student protests.
Expecting similar controversy at Harvard, event organisers wrote on their Facebook event page: “If you disagree with Mr. Shkreli or his policies, we celebrate your right to do so. We only ask that you express your grievances with respect for your fellow peers and through the appropriate channels (e.g.: the Q&A).”
Before the event was due to start, a fire alarm was intentionally set off, resulting in the venue being evacuated. According to The Harvard Crimson, protesters chanted “pharm greed kills”, while university security and police officers managed access to the venue. Several members of the audience walked out during his speech, encouraging other attendees to go to a nearby lecture theatre, where a “teach-in” was being held. This competing event, a panel discussion on Aids treatment and unethical pharmaceutical practices, was organised by the Harvard College Global Health and AIDS Coalition.
According to The Harvard Crimson, Mr Shkreli responded by saying “nobody cares, goodbye”, and was greeted with more heckling. Mr Shrekli is scheduled to deliver a further talk at the University of Massachusetts Boston.