Biotech Veteran Talks of Hedge Fund Investing, Boston Celtics, and Hot Companies

12/18/08

The first thing I noticed when I sat down in the office of biotech investor Rich Aldrich was a shelved paperback copy of Barbarians at the Gate, the book about the legendary leveraged buyout of R.J.R Nabisco. It reminded me that Aldrich is a main character in a somewhat similar book about the biotech industry, The Billion-Dollar Molecule. That book chronicles the formation and innovative strategy of Cambridge, MA-based biotech firm Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRTX), where Aldrich served as chief business officer and helped build the firm into a formidable force in the biotech industry. (Vertex has a significant presence in San Diego as well.)

In his office on the 15th floor of downtown Boston’s Prudential Tower, Aldrich looked to be living the dream. He sat back in a chair next to a framed Boston Celtics jersey. (Aldrich is part of the group that purchased the venerable NBA franchise in 2002, and, yes, he has the championship ring from last season to prove it.) Aldrich’s office is in the same suite as RA Capital Management, the biotech hedge fund he founded in 2001 after leaving Vertex, yet he has long turned over day-to-day management of the enterprise to managing member Peter Kolchinsky. (I wrote about Kolchinsky and the growth of RA Capital, which is a stockholder in San Diego-based diagnostics firm Sequenom (NASDAQ:SQNM), earlier this year.)

Aldrich, unlike in the intense days captured in Billion-Dollar Molecule, is no longer tied to one job or one company. He now lends his deal-making expertise to young biotechs; he is chairman of Cambridge startups Concert Pharmaceuticals and Alnara Pharmaceuticals, and serves as a director of several other companies. And Aldrich had front-row seats, as a director of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, to that Cambridge-based firm’s sale to GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million in May 2008.

I spoke with Aldrich, who’s now 54, about life after Vertex and the state of the biotech industry in Boston and beyond:

Xconomy: Have you ever thought about going back to an operational role at a biotech company?

Aldrich: I have, … Next Page »

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