BIO boots Martin Shkreli's Turing out after pricing controversy erupts

Martin Shkreli and his biotech, Turing Pharmaceuticals, are out at BIO.

FierceBiotech learned today that the BIO board opted to kick him out of the industry organization after an intense controversy erupted over Shkreli's move to boost the price of Daraprim by more than 5000%.

The report was confirmed by a spokesperson for BIO, which issued this statement:

"Turing Pharmaceuticals was a member of BIO for a brief period of time and is currently no longer a member. The company and its leadership do not reflect the commitment to innovation and values that are at the core of BIO's reputation and mission. For that reason, BIO determined, after a review of Turing's membership status, that the company did not meet our eligibility criteria, and we took action to rescind its membership and return its membership dues."

The controversy over Shkreli's move blew up over the weekend, as the news spread that the biotech CEO had moved to jack up prices of the 62-year-old drug from $13.50 a pill to $750. Almost overnight, the 32-year-old Shkreli, after taunting FierceBiotech and others with his schoolyard Twitter jabs, emerged as the poster child over the issue revolving around drug prices and the industry.

Shkreli, though, has a lot more to worry about than his online image right now. Newsweek reported today that the U.S. Attorney's office in New York has the former hedge fund manager under criminal investigation. And they are reportedly engaged in a far-reaching probe. Newsweek summarized the government's theory this way: "If there was money, Shkreli took it. If there were facts to be revealed, Shkreli hid them. If there were securities laws, Shkreli broke them."

Martin Shkreli

The investigation evidently predates the controversy over Daraprim. But now that Shkreli has become so universally reviled, prosecutors are likely to gain some added motivation in hurrying a case along.

Initially, Shkreli told FierceBiotech that the Daraprim pricing move was a "business decision," before adding that I was a moron that was not likely to understand why. He followed up with interviews claiming that he had found a fair price for the drug, approved 30 years before he was born, and that he would use the money on new research. But that argument didn't go very far as Gawker, Reddit and other online outfits stoked an online mob screaming for retribution. Hillary Clinton seized the spotlight to highlight a plan to rein in drug prices, if elected president.

Shkreli didn't fare much better on the Republican side of politics. Republican Donald Trump said Shkreli looked like a spoiled brat and trashed his hedge fund background.

"But I thought it was a disgusting thing, what he did," Trump added, according to Business Insider. "I thought it was a disgrace."

The fact that Daraprim, approved for toxoplasmosis, is needed by AIDS patients made this pricing issue particularly toxic. On Tuesday, Shkreli reversed his defiant refusal to back away, saying he would lower the price of Daraprim to something more reasonable. But unwilling to say just what that new price will be, many in the industry are reserving judgment, waiting to see what Shkreli's new idea of a fair price will be.

For BIO, the group had to face a painful outburst that threatened to paint all its members with the same kind of greedy rep that Shkreli earned. Distancing themselves from the biotech exec seemed one immediate way to help the public distinguish between companies that raise prices on old drugs, and those that are in the business of developing new therapies.

There was no immediate response from Turing or Shkreli, who took his Twitter account private after the uproar reached a crescendo on Tuesday. -- John Carroll, editor-in-chief (email | Twitter)