Dr. Laufer isn't a medical doctor, is he?

No, he is not. His title refers to his doctorate of mathematics. However let it be clear: we are not trying to take the place of doctors; we are merely trying to grant access to medicines to people who do not have it. It is incumbent upon people to make their own decisions as to what they want to put into their bodies.

Do you have doctors on any of the teams?

We do have medical professionals, with various degrees yes. But most of them are consulted for which medicines we most need to create synthesis programs for, so that we can direct our efforts where they are most needed. Again, we are not in the business of prescribing, or diagnosing, we merely offer a tool by which people can help themselves.

Won't people use the wrong things, and hurt themselves?

That is indeed a risk. However it already happens every day with both prescription, and OTC medications. We are convinced that access to medications will do more good than harm. Additionally, people are less likely to go to the trouble of making their own medications, just to take them recklessly.

Won't people use this technology to produce narcotics?

It's unlikely. This tool is capable of small-scale production only, and does not scale up. It’s not something a “drug lab” would get much use out of. Additionally, the requisite ingredients for production of narcotics are tightly controlled, so even if they were to use our technology, it wouldn't really help.

What about poisons?

Again, unlikely. Most poisons are not synthesized, instead they are extracted from plant sources, so this technology is not helpful in that regard either.

Doesn't giving people free reign on medication endanger the public health, like the overprescription of antibiotics creating antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria?

This also is unlikely. If someone is sufficiently ill that they take the pains to build an Apothecary MicroLab, and synthesize a drug which would give them relief, it's unlikely that they would then fail to be vigilant about completing their course of medication.

Aren't you stealing from the patent holders of the medication, when you make it yourself?

No. You are violating their copyright, yes; and at best you might be decreasing their profits if you were making it yourself instead of buying it from them. However anyone who is sufficiently desperate that they build an Apothecary MicroLab, and synthesize their own drugs is clearly in a situation where they would not be able to afford to buy the medication in the first place. Hence, it doesn't really have an effect on the pharmaceutical industry at all. It would be a dead patient, who had died because they couldn't afford the medication vs. a live patient who copied their idea for personal use.

Isn't that illegal, though?

Yes. However if the choices presented to you are to die, because you cannot afford medication, or violate a copyright, which would you choose? We believe it is a just act of civil disobedience to produce one's own medications in violation of patent law. If the medical infrastructure were able to function as it was imagined, then insurance systems would be in place to pay for medications, and there would be no need for this technology. We applaud the citizen groups, and the politicians all over the world who have been working to make that happen, but until we are there, there is a gap of need which we aim to fill.

Furthermore, if you are going to die, does the threat of fines for breaking the law to save your life really scare you?

What about quality control?

It's important to know that making small quantities of a chemical is vastly different than making it on an industrial scale. The chemistry isn't even the same. This is a big reason why chemical engineering is an entire field of study. With smaller reactions, while you do have to be more precise in your measurements sometimes, there are fewer things to go wrong.

But how do you know if what you made is actually what you were trying to make? What about purity?

The protocols we are developing front-load the points of attention. Instead of making a mess in the lab and then using sophisticated filtration and analysis techniques at the end, we set things up so that being very careful measuring and performing the reaction will give us a product within narrow band of purity and yield.

Are you all just a bunch of these self-aggrandizing egomaniacs who claim to have a panacea from combining a few established ideas?

No. This will not save the world; in fact it won't even wipe out the problems it is targeting. It may make them a little better, however. The goal is merely to create a tool which potentially could be used to help people.

There are many issues with what we are trying to accomplish:

  1. Organic Chemistry synthesis is not trivial. Oftentimes it requires many many steps each of which are hard to make happen, and you have to deal with yield and purity at every step. Merely having an automated reaction chamber does not by any means guarantee that you will be able to manufacture a molecule merely by downloading a file and pressing a button. However it may bridge a gap, and make it possible for people with less experience able to perform some of these reactions.
  2. Treating an illness is far more complicated than merely taking a drug. It takes a great deal. This tool merely may give access to medicines to those who do not have it. Too often people die, not because there is not a treatment, but because they are disallowed access to it for one reason or other.
  3. Even with an Apothecary MicroLab, it requires a lot of dedication to create even the simplest of medicines. This is hard work, it is complicated, and it is difficult. However, previously the only thing a disenfranchised person could do was be frustrated. Now they can potentially make their required medicine.
  4. Last, and perhaps most importantly: This is still in the beta stage. But we have begun the process.