#MeToo Movement Gains Traction in Pharma and Biotech Industries


Biotech Hedge Fund Titan Sam Isaly has finally stepped down from his position as a managing member of the firm more than four months after he was accused of sexual harassment and creating a toxic working environment at OrbiMed Advisors.

OrbiMed announced Isaly’s move late last Friday, more than four months after Isaly and OrbiMed initially announced he would step down. In December, two days after a scathing Stat News report detailed the allegations against Isaly, OrbiMed announced that the long-time hedge fund investor would step down from his position. In making its announcement last week, the investment firm did not mention the accusations against Isaly, only called it part of “ongoing succession planning.” OrbiMed said Isaly has transferred his controlling interest in the company but did not disclose details of the deal.

Isaly, the company said, will continue to practice his investment skills as chief investment officer of the Isaly Family Office, subject to his obligations to OrbiMed. Isaly, the statement continues, “looks forward to many more years of investing excellence.”

In December, five people leveled charges against the 72-year-old Isaly and claimed he “wantonly demeaned and verbally abused female employees.” According to the initial report, Isaly made lewd comments to female employees, subjected them to pornographic images and made “pervasive sexist comments.” The allegations against Isaly were first reported by Stat News. Despite Isaly’s denial of the allegations, which were initially reported on Dec. 6, two days later OrbiMed announced Isaly’s intent to step down.

Sexual harassment allegations, such as those against Isaly, have been in the forefront of the news cycles for months as the #MeToo movement gained traction. The movement shined a spotlight on allegations of bad behavior in many industries, including the pharma and biotech industries. In the pharma sector, things got rolling in 2016 following the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. An industry party that included a number of hired women in short cocktail dresses were hired to mingle with the mostly-male attendees. Some of the few female biotech executives who attended expressed their outrage, which has led to a number of initiatives to close the gender gap on leadership teams and boards of directors in the industry. Despite the exposure of a concern within the industry, that has not quelled incidents of sexual harassment.

Last month a Sanofi executive who was dismissed following allegations of sexual harassment filed a lawsuit against the French biotech company for an unfair dismissal. Jean-Marc Podvin, who was once Sanofi’s director of press relations, has already lost two unfair dismissal lawsuits in the French courts, Bloomberg reported. Podvin was accused of a variety of harassing behaviors, including allegedly exposing his genitalia to a female employee. He was also accused of sexting female assistants.

In December, just prior to the breaking of the news about Isaly, two Korea-based business entities of pharma giants Novartis and Pfizer became embroiled in sexual harassment allegations. A male employee at Novartis Korea reported to the company that his female boss sexually harassed him in September. At Pfizer Korea allegations were made against a male supervisor for inappropriately touching women while “faking” a hug.

In February a survey conducted by the San Francisco Business Times indicated there is still a “glaring gender divide” that includes “blatant sexism, subtle verbal slights and stunted career growth.”

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