Discoverer of ImClone's key drug leaves the company board

by THERESA AGOVINO
Associated Press
September 16, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) - Dr. John Mendelsohn, the prominent cancer specialist who discovered ImClone Systems Inc.'s star experimental drug Erbitux, ended his official affiliation Monday with the company that was entangled in an insider trading scandal. Mendelsohn did not seek re-election as shareholders chose a new board at the company's annual meeting.

Mendelsohn had been a scientific adviser to the company since 1993 and on the board since 1998.

Mendelsohn, who is president of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a statement that programs at the institution have been growing so rapidly that he decided not to stand for re-election to the ImClone board. However, he said he would continue to assist ImClone in any way possible to further the development of Erbitux.

Mendelsohn's decision to leave is the latest in a series of departures from the board. Earlier this year, board chairman Robert Goldhammer and Harlan Waksal resigned amid federal tax and accounting investigations into the company.

Waksal had taken over as chief executive in May 2002 after his brother Sam resigned because he was ensnared in an insider trading scandal. Sam Waksal was accused of trying to sell his ImClone stock and instructing family members do the same before the news that the Food and Drug Administration rejected the company's application to review Erbitux became public. Sam Waksal is now serving a seven-year prison term, and Erbitux's application has been refiled with the FDA.

Mendelsohn was never linked to the ImClone scandal, and insiders say board members encouraged him to stay because he lent credibility to the company.

Mendelsohn also was a member of Enron Corp.'s board of directors, as was former M.D. Anderson president Charles LeMaistre. Mendelsohn, who had sat on the board's audit committee, resigned as a director in May 2002. The cancer center received nearly 0,000 over five years from the now-bankrupt energy company and its former chairman Kenneth Lay. In 1993, the Enron Foundation pledged .5 million to it.

ImClone shares were down 25 cents to close at .19 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.