Chapter 4, Part 5: The sad song of KaloBios
The tragic story of one small, promising biotech company often gets lost in the messy tangle of Martin Shkreli's business drama.
One thing often appears as little more than a footnote to Martin Shkreli’s wacky and complicated business history. But it’s arguably interesting and important enough to deserve its own chapter. It’s also a story that so neatly encapsulates so many of the disparate elements that powered Martin’s meteoric trajectory (both upward and downward), at least in my mind, anyway.
It was his brief and dazzling month as the CEO of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals.
As with a lot of Martin’s drama, it happened in 2015. Sandwiched between him making headlines for jacking up the price of a toxoplasmosis medication as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, buying a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album for $2 million, and getting arrested for securities fraud, it understandably attracted little attention outside of the biotechnology world. But like seemingly everything else in Martin’s life, the story was a uniquely wild yarn.
KaloBios was a small, struggling drug company based in South San Francisco. It was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy after one of its drugs failed in testing. But it was working on an antibody called lenzilumab, which showed promise in treating a rare and deadly form of blood cancer. To stay in business and continue testing the drug, the company desperately needed help from a white knight with deep pockets.
The rescuer it got was perhaps not what the company founders had envisioned.