I-Team: Buffalo's power elite were invested in Collins' biotech firm

Connections to UB, Roswell Park, Buffalo Club
Posted at 1:25 PM, Aug 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-10 15:22:04-04

Chris Collins’ son, Cameron, and his future in-laws now stand accused of insider trading.

But they aren't the only people the Congressman told to bet big on Innate Immunotherapeutics, the Australian biotech firm where he was on the board.

"It's really a network of the corporate elite in Buffalo," said Rob Galbraith of the Public Accountability Initiative, a Buffalo nonprofit that tracks money and influence in politics.

Galbraith has been following the connections between Collins and the company for more than a year, when Politico reported that Collins was overheard on the floor of the House of Representatives bragging about how many “millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo” in the last month with a stock tip.

Galbraith's research shows that plenty of Western New York's power elite were investors in Innate Immunotherapeutics. (While Collins and his son stand accused of insider trading, none of these other investors to our knowledge have been accused of any sort of wrongdoing, because they are believed to have made their trades and investments legally). 

-- Paul J. Harder is a Republican fundraiser and previously worked at Uniland Development. He has also served on the board of The Buffalo Club.

-- Bill Paxon is now a lobbyist who used to hold Collins' seat in Congress. The two have another connection in Michael Hook, who was chief of staff to both men.

-- Mark Lema, the chair of anesthesiology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, also invested in Innate.

-- Then there's the University at Buffalo connection. Former UB Foundation chairman Angelo Fatta also purchased innate stock in August 2016. Fatta is on the SUNY board of trustees and also board chairman of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

-- Even former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff reportedly invested in Innate, which tried for years to find cures for anthrax, SARS, MS and even AIDS -- all with little success.

"And so really it looks like this company has just been a total dud," Galbraith said.

That perhaps leaves many in Buffalo to wonder whether they made the right investment by betting on a Congressman's company.

"You know, it makes you wonder whether these folks aren't feeling a little bit burned right now," he said.