Waksal's resignation comes as his brother Samuel, ImClone's former chief executive, is about to begin serving an 87-month prison term for tax evasion and insider trading in a scandal that has tainted Martha Stewart (search), the lifestyle trend-setter.
The Waksal brothers founded ImClone, a biotechnology company, in 1984. When Sam Waksal (search) resigned as chief executive in May 2002, two months before being arrested, Harlan Waksal took over the top job.
Nearly a year later, Harlan resigned as CEO in connection with a federal tax probe and took the post of chief scientific officer. His departure from the company follows the resignation last week of director Robert Goldhammer, the former chairman.
The resignations come just months before expected marketing approval for Erbitux (search), ImClone's experimental colon-cancer drug that some analysts believe could be a blockbuster.
Harlan Waksal's resignation can only help improve ImClone's image as it claws its way back to respectability. Critics have long said the company would remain tarnished as long as Harlan Waksal remained on board.
"My departure has nothing to do with any concern about Erbitux, its testing or its regulatory process," Harlan Waksal said in a statement.
In December 2001, U.S. regulators said they would not review ImClone's application for approval of Erbitux, citing deficiencies in the design of clinical trials of the drug and the sloppy organization of the application.
The regulators' decision sent ImClone shares tumbling lower.
Before the decision was announced, Sam Waksal tried to sell his ImClone shares, and prosecutors allege he tipped off his father and his daughter to sell their stakes as well.
Stewart, a close friend of Sam Waksal, sold ImClone shares just one day before the Erbitux decision became public. She has been indicted on charges of obstruction of justice in the matter.
ImClone shares were down 70 cents, or 2 percent, at $33.53 in morning Nasdaq trade.