Isaly cracks the biotech code

Wed Jan 30, 2008


While most biotech funds have struggled just to survive, Sam Isaly’s OrbiMed has taken off, using a model that ties together venture capital and hedge funds – and bets that big pharma will gobble up biotech firms to build up their pipeline of new drugs.


With venture capital and hedge funds, OrbiMed keeps returns aloft

By Eric Baum

When biotech and healthcare stocks stalled last year, Sam Isaly, a founding partner of OrbiMed Advisors, would occasionally swat a battered leather punching bag attached to the front of his desk. The boxing stance might seem to come natural: A spinal injury that confines the 62-year-old fund manager to a wheelchair also closes his hands into loosely clenched fists, like an aged fighter's.

A year of turmoil kept the punching bag nearby, and by the end of December, OrbiMed's $1 billion hedge fund, Caduceus Capital, managed to finish the year up 9.1%, almost double the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index's 4.58% gain. And that was in spite of a 4% drop in December for Caduceus.

Isaly's periodic bouts of frustration are understandable. The past two years have been a difficult slog for many biotech and healthcare investors....

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