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Six pills are in focus on a white table. A medicine bottle is blurred in the background.

The anarchist grew animated as he explained his plan to subvert a pillar of global capitalism by teaching the poor to make their own medicines — pharmaceutical industry patents be damned.

Then he took another sip from a flute of Taittinger Champagne.

Swaggering, charismatic, and complex, Michael Laufer has become a fixture in the growing biohacker movement ever since he published plans last year for a do-it-yourself EpiPencil — a $35 alternative to the pricey EpiPen.

It’s not clear whether anyone has actually ever used a homemade EpiPencil to prevent anaphylactic shock. But that seems almost an afterthought to Laufer’s bigger goal — trying to build a DIY movement to attack high pharma pricing and empower patients.

The de facto leader behind the leaderless collective Four Thieves Vinegar, Laufer is now on to his next project: He’s developing a desktop lab and a recipe book meant to equip patients to cook up a range of medicines, including a homemade version of the expensive hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, on their kitchen counters.

Health professionals have strenuously warned against DIY pharmaceuticals,...