EpiPen main ingredient costs ‘less than a Big Mac’

— Mark Baum believes the relentless EpiPen price hikes are “shameful” and his company is plotting a $100 alternative for the lifesaving allergy treatment.

Baum, known for offering a $1 substitute for the $750 AIDS drug Daraprim, told CNNMoney on Tuesday that his company Imprimis Pharmaceuticals has been quietly working on a compounded version of EpiPen for months. The company hopes to have it ready by the end of the year.

The plans come amid the latest price gouging scandal over the 400% increase in EpiPen prices by Mylan. The drug maker and its CEO Heather Bresch have become the newest faces of corporate greed. In response to the outcry, Mylan took the unusual step of announcing a fast-track launch of its own $300 generic EpiPen.

But Baum says his version of EpiPen would cost very little to make. He pointed that one milligram of epinephrine, which is three times more than what’s needed in an EpiPen, costs just a few bucks.

“The cost of epinephrine is literally less than a Big Mac,” he said of EpiPen’s main ingredient.

The auto injector is available for between $3 and $7. He believes he can make a customizable version of EpiPen and sell it profitably for less than $100, without gouging the public.

“We don’t have the desire to charge the public even $300, for something that costs so little,” Baum said.

“That’s not how I want to live my life.”

Related: How EpiPen came to symbolize corporate greed

Imprimis has already had success in taking on expensive branded drugs with cheaper compounds. Last year, the company launched a $1 alternative to Daraprim, the AIDS drug that overnight saw an incredible 5,000% price increase from the company led by the infamous Martin Shkreli.

Today, Imprimis has captured 20% of the market for this critical AIDS drug, producing more than 17,000 doses of its alternative, Baum told CNNMoney’s Paula Newton.

So how does it work? As a compounder, Imprimis takes items already approved by the FDA and repackages them to create the drug. Baum thinks this process can easily be replicated with EpiPen.

Another factor is that tiny Imprimis doesn’t have nearly the same costs that big drug companies do. Baum’s $52 million company is located in a modest office park in the outskirts of San Diego and has just 112 employees. By comparison, Mylan is a $23 billion giant with a workforce of nearly 35,000.

Compounded drugs may be a tougher sell because of safety concerns. In 2012, a meningitis outbreak caused by a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy led to the deaths of 64 people.

Baum insists that Imprimis focuses on quality and has a deep understanding of epinephrine. “We understand how the drug works and can make it effectively and affordably,” he said.

The Imprimis CEO offered a mixed take on Bresch, the controversial Mylan boss. He applauded her for being “honest” about serious problems in the opaque pharmaceutical supply chain that encourage higher prices.

Given Mylan’s near-monopoly in the EpiPen space, Baum explained that Bresch would have been fired had she not raised prices.

“It would be CEO malpractice if she didn’t,” he said.

But Baum said he would not have raised the price as much.

“I don’t need to make $19 million a year,” Baum said, referring to the big pay package Bresch took home last year.

“Tonight when I go home I’m going to eat a nice piece of fish and the fish I eat isn’t any better or worse than what she is going to eat.”

Macy’s is closing another 100 stores

— Another 100 struggling Macy’s stores are disappearing.

Macy’s announced plans on Thursday to close about 15% of its department stores, the latest effort to adapt to shifting consumer preferences for online shopping.

Macy’s did not disclose which stores it will close, but said most of them will close early in 2017.

The move comes as Macy’s revealed its second-quarter sales fell less than feared. Macy’s stock soared 10% in premarket trading.

Will.i.am tells kids: Dream of being Steve Jobs, not me

— Will.i.am is on a mission to inspire inner city youth to embrace science and technology.

The former front man for the Black Eyed Peas is hoping poor minority children will be inspired by his career makeover from musical artist to tech entrepreneur.

Will.i.am was a founding shareholder in Beats Electronics, the maker of Beats by Dre headphones. More recently he formed i.am+, a consumer-electronics company that is trying (and struggling so far) to create a hit wearable device.

The Grammy-award winning artist says the company and his charitable foundation want to persuade inner city youth to pursue careers in science and technology, not the NBA and MTV.

“There is no one they can look up to that resembles their lifestyle,” will.i.am said at SkyBridge Capital’s SALT Conference in Las Vegas earlier this month.

“I love Michael Dell and I love Steve Jobs, but these kids still dream of being Michael Jordan. They still dream of being LeBron James.”

Many kids also still dream of becoming the Black Eyed Peas, he said. But will.i.am has a message to kids: “Our business isn’t the business.”

Inner city schools are flawed: Will.i.am, whose full name is William James Adams Jr., expressed frustration with the public education system in inner cities. He said it’s “butt backwards wrong” that schools focus on physical education and team sports but not enough on science and technology.

“My sister isn’t going to be a freaking NBA superstar,” will.i.am said.

Before he started the Black Eyed Peas in the 1990s and hit it big in the early 2000s, will.i.am grew up in housing projects in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles.

“I’m on a mission to change ghettos that resemble the ghetto I was brought up in,” he said.

While the 40-year-old entertainer went to school at a charter school in the Palisades, he realizes many inner city kids don’t have that opportunity.

“No money is being spent in these inner cities on education. America is in a really funky place if we aren’t educating our cities. Inner cities in 20 years could turn into slums,” will.i.am said.

Will kids follow will.i.am into STEM? I.am.angel Foundation, will.i.am’s charitable organization, funds programs aimed at steering students into science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Last month will.i.am announced plans to help fund a STEM program for high school students in Ferguson, Missouri.

Will.i.am is hoping the tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow include more kids who grew up in inner cities like he did. At the SALT Conference in Las Vegas, the entertainer showed off the Puls, his company’s latest attempt at a smart band.

While the first version of the wearable device was slammed by the tech world, Gucci recently partnered with will.i.am on a new line of smart bands.

It’s not clear if the device will ultimately succeed, but will.i.am is determined to serve as a new kind of role model for inner city kids.

“My mission is to build the Puls alongside the philanthropy to continue to sustain and scale our work and inspire these kids to dream down this STEM street,” he said.