Sam Waksal Wants Back In Biotech

Despite my repeated invitations for his first post-jailhouse interview on this blog and through one of his contacts, Sam Waksal didn't respond. Given his Manhattan social scene background it should not, perhaps, come as a surprise that the founder of ImClone Systems decided to have his coming-out party in "New York" magazine. Quick backstory: Waksal and his friend Martha Stewart went to prison for their roles in an ImClone insider trading/lying-to-the-feds scandal.

The article calls Waksal "a young-looking 61," but I think this photo of him looking pensive on what I presume is a Central Park bench shows how much he's aged since I last saw him the morning that he walked into prison.

Sam Waksal
Michal Chelbin for New York Magazine
Sam Waksal

There are a few good nuggets in the piece, though. Apparently he still had ImClone stock options when Eli Lilly recently bought the company for $6.5 billion. The article says Waksal "likely made a fortune off the Eli Lilly deal (he won't say how much, though he will say 'the world doesn't have to worry about me.' )" I don't know anyone who ever expressed worry about him or his financial health. The premium price paid by LLY, though, gave Waksal a sense of vindication about the successful cancer drug Erbitux that got him into so much trouble.

And Waksal wants to get back in business. He can't be an officer again at a publicly-held company, but he's reportedly looking for investors for some kind of biotech start-up. "There's no scientist out there that has been wary of me," Waksal tells the magazine. "And guys in the venture-capital world I dealt with before—it's as if I wasn't gone a day!"

You might also see him soon at a Barnes & Noble booksigning. He says he wrote a prison memoir. In the current publishing world environment I wonder if anyone will buy it.

The story is filled with braggadocio about his intellect and how well-read he is. It borders on arrogance. Referring to one of his old ImClone science buddies, Waksal is quoted as saying, "Neither one of us likes to hang out with dumb people." Who would say that? And if he's so smart, how or why did he do something so stupid? He never really answers that question.

His attitude isn't limited to his knowledge. Regarding his monogrammed French-cuff shirts Waksal made sure to tell the reporter, "None of this is brand. It's made."

I'm thinking the high-profile NY mag spread is gonna get Waksal more invitations on the Manhattan dinner party circuit. But don't have him break bread with Martha Stewart . She refused to give NY mag reporter Robert Kolker an interview for the article, but sent a proper (or is it a little chilly?) quote wishing her old friend "new successes." And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think ex-cons, especially ones tied to the same scandal, are allowed to hang out after they get out.

And he won't be sitting down with me either anytime soon.

A spokesperson told me in an email this morning, "We have said everything that needs to be said on the subjects covered in the article. Maybe at another time in the future." If he were ever to meet with me, since he doesn't like hanging out with "dumb people," according to the article, I may have to brush up on Etruscan pottery and re-read Descartes (my first and only time was in Philosophy 101 many years ago), although Waksal claims he read a French translation of "Principles of Philosophy" while behind bars.

Sacre bleu!


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