Biotech Hedge Fund Titan, Isaly, Steps Down Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

Executive

In the wake of sexual harassment allegations, OrbiMed Advisors’ founder and managing partner Sam Isaly has stepped down from his position.

Allegations against Isaly were first made public in a biting report from Stat News only two days ago. In the report, former employees of the life science hedge fund described a “toxic work environment” created by Isaly. The allegations included keeping breast implants on his desk to “stroke” for “stress management,” subjecting female employees to hardcore pornographic images and verbal abuse. After Stat News filed its report two days ago, OrbiMed Advisors said it was hiring outside counsel to investigate the claims.

“The incidents cited are concerning and OrbiMed has retained the services of an outside independent law firm to investigate the matter. OrbiMed takes gender equality seriously and wishes to encourage a supportive work environment and equal opportunity for all employees,” OrbiMed said in its statement, as quoted by Stat News.

Whether or not the investigators found anything, or if they’ve even begun their investigation is not clear at this time. This morning, the life science investment firm announced Isaly’s departure, although there was no admission of wrongdoing, nor was there any apology for the alleged behavior. There was also no denial of the allegations in the statement. The investment firm said Isaly “decided to step down from the firm,” using benign language that was more akin to announcing a simple retirement rather than a departure under the cloud of sexual harassment allegations.

Isaly, along with 15 colleagues, founded OrbiMed Advisors in 1998. Today the firm has a market value of about $14 billion, OrbiMed said in its announcement. The company added that under Isaly’s “stewardship,” OrbiMed Advisors “invested in countless healthcare and biotechnology companies that have provided new medicines and innovative technologies focused on improving patients’ lives.”

Sven Borho, a general partner of OrbiMed, called Isaly an “iconic investor in the healthcare sector… with countless professional accomplishments.” Borho said he and the firm’s other partners will continue to build on Isaly’s “founding vision in worldwide healthcare investing.”

“I am extremely proud of what my distinguished partners and I have accomplished at OrbiMed and the difference we have made in the lives of patients worldwide,” Isaly said in a statement. “OrbiMed is a strong and vibrant company positioned for continued growth and this is a good time for me to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders.”

Isaly will be replaced as managing partner by a management committee made up of Borho, Carl L. Gordon, and Jonathan T. Silverstein.

Isaly’s departure just a few weeks before the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference where two years ago LifeSci Advisors was scorned for hiring models in tight dresses for an industry party. Since that party, Michael Rice, a founder of LifeSci Advisors, has gone all in on pushing for greater gender diversity in the life sciences industry. Rice and the rest of LifeSci leadership have become champions of promoting the call for women in leadership roles. The company has combined its resources with the nonprofit organization Women in Bio, to help train women for leadership roles in the industry, either as executives or members of board of directors.

LifeSci’s turnaround was triggered after an open letter, signed by more than 230 pharma and biotech executives, decried the party thrown by LifeSci at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. The letter, authored by Karen Bernstein, chairman of BioCentury Publications, Inc. and Kate Bingham, managing partner of SV Life Sciences Advisers LLP, equated the hiring of models for the party as believing women were nothing more than “chattel.”

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