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the lunch

After brain injury, tenacious CEO builds new drug company Add to ...

But Mr. Goodman, who readily admits that he loves to work, was not going to sit around spending his new wealth. He had negotiated with Endo to spin off one Paladin product – a treatment for the tropical disease leishmaniasis – to form the basis for a new company, Knight Therapeutics, whose stock was distributed to Paladin’s shareholders. While the rest of Paladin’s staff stayed with Endo, he left to run Knight.

In just a few weeks of existence Knight has raised more than $250-million in private placements – a testament to Mr. Goodman’s reputation for managing a growing drug company. While it now has loads of cash, and plans to acquire the rights to sell many more drugs, the firm has only one other employee, CFO Jeffrey Kadanoff, whom Mr. Goodman hired on day one.

Investors appear to think he can turn it into another Paladin: The stock has risen by more than 50 per cent since its first day of trading in early March.

The day of our lunch, Knight’s offices were, like the company, in its formative stages. Drywall was unpainted, boxes and packaging materials were strewn about, and technicians were fiddling with phones and computer equipment.

Mr. Goodman acknowledges that he is trying to make a point with his aggressive little venture.

“I want to prove that the first brain-damaged CEO can thrive,” he said. “That is why I am doing this interview … I want to be inspirational. I want to be a source of inspiration for people who are facing challenges.”

Mr. Beaudet, his long-time colleague, says that is exactly what Mr. Goodman is doing. “His life was taken away and he has progressively been taking it back,” Mr. Beaudet said.

“What he has done is nothing short of heroic, and should be a source of hope for anybody who is facing a really difficult situation.” The aggressive and energetic way Mr. Goodman approached his recovery and his new business venture “fits with the pattern of his entire life,” he said.

As Mr. Goodman sums it up, “tenacity is something that has served me well.”

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Personal

  • Born in Montreal; 46 years old
  • Married to Dana; three children

Education

  • B.A. from McGill University and the London School of Economics, law degree from McGill, MBA from McGill

Career highlights

  • Worked at Bain & Co. as a consultant
  • Joined Procter & Gamble in brand management
  • In mid-1990s became CEO of drug distributor Paladin Labs Inc., a spinoff from his father’s generic drug maker Pharmascience
  • Sold Paladin for $3-billion in 2014 to Endo Health Solutions
  • Created startup Knight Therapeutics, whose shares were distributed to Paladin shareholders, in Feb. 2014

In his own words

  • “My working memory is solid. I can run iterations in my head. I may not remember the next day perfectly, the basis of my decision. But if I were given the same facts again, the computer will still come to the same decision. That part of the brain is perfectly intact and functioning at a high level.”
  • “Most people with a severe traumatic brain injury lose their wives and best friends because of changes of personality. It haunts me that that could happen to me. And I understand why. I see it and I fight it.”
  • “We know more about Mars than we do about the human brain.”
  • “The pharmaceutical industry is the best industry to be in, because you make a great living and you make people better. I can’t imagine a better vocation. It is so much better than selling widgets.”
  • “Montreal’s pharma sector is dwindling quickly. [The big] R&D spenders are gone. There are a lot of people in pharma looking for work. It is very unfortunate. Smaller companies are diminishing as well. Certainly, Canadian biotech has been decimated.”
  • “I believe that I am hard-wired to sell drugs. I grew up in the pharmaceutical industry. That is what I love to do.”
  • “I don’t want to just take up room, to take up space. I want to make a difference. Making a difference in work and making a difference in society.”
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