OrbiMed Advisors

Orbimed Advisors

Dollars: $136.06 million
Deals: 21
Based: New York City, San Francisco, Shanghai, Mumbai and Israel
Website: orbimed.com
Founded: 1989

Back in the bad old days of 2010, while many venture groups were finding it devilishly difficult to come up with fresh cash to invest, OrbiMed Advisors rolled out a $550 million fund that has put them at the center of the action in growing life sciences companies.

OrbiMed partners told reporters at the time that they were planning to slice up the money by sector, with 60% earmarked for biotech, 30% for medical devices and 10% for diagnostics. They quickly began handing out millions with the aim of backing a portfolio of 25 to 30 companies. Keeping up with its ambitious international profile, OrbiMed followed up with a $222 million fund last year devoted exclusively to Israel, home of a thriving life sciences industry of its own where OrbiMed has been toiling for years. And the year before that the firm put up $600 million for loans secured by royalty streams.

Like everyone else, no doubt, OrbiMed has been hampered by the long drought of biotech IPOs that has kept many advanced companies private long past their expected IPO date. But the partners had some earlier successes at selling assets that helped with its fundraising activities. Its string of exits include CoGenesys, acquired by Teva ($TEVA) in 2008; Cerexa, bought out by Forest Labs 2007; and Peninsula, snapped up by Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) in 2005.

More recently the venture group has been a key player in backing some noteworthy companies. OrbiMed signed on with a syndicate for Aragon Pharmaceuticals' $87.8 million round last year, which was designed to push its closely watched cancer drug ARN-509 further down the clinical path. Then there was another $65 million it helped put up for Relypsa, the second of two top 10 biotech rounds that OrbiMed elected to join in 2012. Affimed Therapeutics grabbed some of OrbiMed's cash recently, as did Ambit, which is developing a lead drug for acute myeloid leukemia--quizartinib--and recently found itself ditched at the IPO altar by its pharma partner, Astellas. 

You'll also find OrbiMed present at the creation from time to time. OrbiMed has reserved about 20% of its cash for startups. And naturally enough, they like the entrepreneurs with a successful track record, as serial biotech entrepreneur Tillman Gerngross found recently when he decided to start a new company. Gerngross succeeded before with his company GlycoFi, sold to a star-crossed Merck ($MRK), and has been forging a string of industry antibody deals with his new venture Adimab. OrbiMed has clearly enjoyed the long-term relationship.

OrbiMed was also in on the A round for Cleave Biosciences, which is working on a novel set of therapies involving protein degradation.

The venture group's long list of 63 portfolio companies obviously includes a few duds. OrbiMed lost out on Biolex with some A-list backers who found themselves backing the wrong hep C drug.

OrbiMed still has plenty to boast about, though it doesn't often take that chance. A partner failed to return messages from FierceBiotech. OrbiMed signed up for the C round for Intercept Pharmaceuticals ($ICPT), which actually went public on the high end of its range last fall and then saw its stock price shoot straight up, helping to revive a long-dormant market for biotech offerings. The stock price has more than doubled since its debut, making this one a big score for backers.

Another winner for OrbiMed was Puma Biotech ($PBYI), which raised $138 million in an unusually successful IPO, and then saw its market cap swell more than $900 million--rare for a company with a highly risky experimental cancer drug in the pipeline. Analysts love the company's management team, which sold Cougar Biotechnology to J&J for a cool billion dollars. The fact that J&J went on to gain an approval for Cougar's prostate cancer drug only helps burnish the image--letting OrbiMed benefit once again.

For more:
Ambit Biosciences finds $50M more from VCs as leukemia therapy advances
Promising prostate cancer data triggers $50M venture haul for Aragon
OrbiMed launches $600M fund for royalty, debt deals

-- John Carroll (email | Twitter)

OrbiMed Advisors

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