The doctor is in: Trump insider Ben Carson joins NASH player Galectin as a 'special consultant,' part-time spokesman
In the few short months since President Donald Trump left office, his former department heads are reportedly having a difficult time finding employment. But for Ben Carson, Trump’s former housing secretary, that’s not a problem anymore after biotech came calling.
Carson, a former GOP presidential candidate and erstwhile HUD head, has joined Galectin Therapeutics as a “special consultant” the biotech hopes will help raise its profile and provide an entrée to key business partnerships, the company said Monday.
The company will also use Carson as a part-time mouthpiece, with him “periodically acting as a spokesperson related to the Company’s science through public comments and interviews, in introductions to commercial and academic partners, and in other public statements as may be requested,” according to an SEC filing. Financial terms of Carson’s employment were not disclosed.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who spent four years in Trump’s inner circle, will be tasked with helping raise awareness around Galectin’s lead compound, belapectin, which is currently in a Phase II/III trial for NASH cirrhosis. Carson will also pick up responsibilities for developing a scientific advisory board at the company with oversight on picking members, Galectin said.
“Early results and potential for belapectin’s use in combination with immunotherapy in cancer suggests belapectin could address a multitude of indications where galectin-3 is involved,” Carson said in a statement. “This has motivated me to apply my scientific and business skills developed over my long medical career to help steer the Company forward in navigating its clinical trials and identifying partnerships.”
According to CEO Joel Lewis, Carson’s involvement developed from conversations between him and Chairman Richard Uihlein, who valued Carson’s experience in neurology and oncology and his extensive connections at Johns Hopkins. After Carson reviewed the biotech’s technology and saw its potential in late-stage NASH trials, he and Galectin reached an agreement on a tailor-made position that would give him the option to play a bit of centerfield. A board position was never discussed, Lewis said.
It’s a bold choice with potential political ramifications for Galectin given Carson’s former role in the Trump administration. Carson heading up the scientific advisory board, for instance, could prove a barrier in a biotech industry that has been more willing to speak out politically in recent years — particularly against Trump. Lewis downplayed those concerns, arguing that Carson’s extensive medical background — despite not history in NASH — was a boon for the team.
“Look, We’re thrilled that anybody of his stature is willing to help us,” Lewis told me. “I’m trying to run an R&D biotech, and we need help. I’m especially thrilled that he has connections at Johns Hopkins.”
In terms of the stipulations in his contract, Lewis was mum. In the company’s 8-K filing, the biotech laid out the position’s duties but not its compensation or term.
“If I’m not legally required to disclose someone’s contract then I won’t do that,” Lewis said. “He’s not an executive of the company, he’s a consultant — but he’s helping us in a big way.”
This isn’t Carson’s first go at biotech. Back in 2014, Carson was appointed chairman of the board for vaccine maker Vaccinogen. It wasn’t a long stay: Carson dropped the position in May 2015 as he geared up his campaign for president, where he would eventually lose the GOP nomination to Trump.