Waksal's back: Once-jailed biotech chief plots an IPO for his latest play

Kadmon CEO Sam Waksal

It has been 5 years since Sam Waksal got out of prison for his role in an insider trading scandal tied to ImClone, a biotech he founded, and its eventual blockbuster cancer treatment. Since then, he's been raising money, gathering assets and toiling away at a new biotech, called Kadmon. And now he's ready to return to Wall Street, CNBC reports, planning an IPO for his latest venture.

Kadmon plans to get an S-1 in to the SEC by year's end, Waksal told CNBC's Meg Tirrell, aiming to join in on an ongoing boom in biotech IPOs in hopes of bankrolling a wide pipeline of early- and mid-stage compounds.

Waksal won't be running the biotech, of course--part of his punishment for the ImClone scandal is a lifetime ban from serving as a director of a public company--so his brother, Harlan, will take up CEO duties. The founder will serve as head of innovation, science and strategy, he told CNBC.

The former ImClone chief has kept busy since wrapping up his 5-year bid, building Kadmon's portfolio by raising a reported $500 million in equity, buying out Three Rivers Pharmaceuticals for $100 million and in-licensing treatments from the likes of Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX). Now his new company is sitting on three Phase II cancer treatments, a mid-stage inflammatory candidate with applications in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and two more Phase II drugs for dyslipidemia and hypertension, plus a slew of preclinical contenders.

Whether Wall Street wants Waksal back remains to be seen, however.

The ImClone scandal, which revolved around the targeted oncology treatment Erbitux, turned into a protracted, embarrassing affair, landing Martha Stewart in federal prison and tarnishing the CEO's name. It began in 2001, when Waksal got word that the FDA was going to reject Erbitux's lung cancer application and, in the days before the news went public, began unloading ImClone shares and telling friends and family to do the same. (Erbitux was eventually approved for both colon and head and neck cancers, leading Eli Lilly ($LLY) to buy ImClone for $6.5 billion in 2008. The drug brought in about $1.9 billion last year.)

While Waksal's plans with Kadmon may be news, his interest in biotech's IPO hot streak was already well-established. Speaking to Bloomberg last year, the CEO talked up the idea of launching a series of public spin-outs, cashing in on investor excitement over drug-developing startups.

"We haven't seen a biotech market like this since 2000," Waksal said. "You get these windows; you get companies funded; you get shareholders that are interested in an approach, a strategy, a technology, a management team; and often, you really get big winners."

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