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A judge has rejected a request by disgraced pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli to be released from prison amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shkreli, known as the “Parma Bro”, is serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted in 2017 for lying to investors about the performance of two hedge funds he was running, as well as defrauding investors in a drug company.

His lawyers had argued that if released from a low-security prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, he would be about to research a treatment for the coronavirus, which has infected 1.4 million Americans and killed more than 88,000.

However the claim was dismissed by probation officials as being the kind of “delusional self-aggrandising behaviour” that had led to his conviction.

US district judge Kiyo Matsumoto released a nine-page ruling denying Shkreli’s request to be freed, saying the 37-year-old had failed to demonstrate extraordinary and compelling factors that would require his release.

Benjamin Brafman, Shkreli’s attorney, said the decision was “disappointing but not unexpected”.

In a research proposal posted online, Shkreli said the pharmaceutical industry’s response to the pandemic was “inadequate” and said researchers at every drug company “should be put to work until Covid-19 is no more”.

He said his background “as a successful two-time biopharma entrepreneur, having purchased multiple companies, invented multiple new drug candidates” would make him a valuable asset.

However, the judge noted the concerns of probation officials that Shkreli’s claim that he could develop a cure for coronavirus that “so far eluded the best medical and scientific minds in the world working around the clock” is “delusional self-aggrandising behaviour”.

Shkreli first gained notoriety by buying the rights to a drug used to treat an infection that occurs in some Aids, malaria and cancer patients and raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. He is also known for attacking critics on social media and offering a bounty to anyone who could give him one of Hillary Clinton’s hairs.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report

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