Xconomist of the Week: Five Questions About Life Sciences Investing for Dennis Purcell of Aisling Capital

8/4/11Follow @arleneweintraub

Dennis Purcell is the senior managing partner of New York-based Aisling Capital, one of the top venture capital firms in the life sciences industry, with $1.65 billion under management. In 2009, Aisling closed its third fund, worth $650 million.

Aisling Capital’s first fund started up in 2002 with the goal of supporting startups across the entire healthcare products industry, including biotechnology, medical devices, aesthetics, and consumer health products. One of the big names it backed was Adams Respiratory, which developed Mucinex, the cough-and-cold product that’s become famous for its somewhat disgusting mascot, Mr. Mucus. Reckitt Benckiser bought Adams in 2007 for $2.3 billion cash. Aisling also invested in obesity-drugmaker Vivus (NASDAQ: VVUS)—but was lucky enough to take it public and sell its stake before Vivus ran into regulatory hurdles getting its weight loss product approved.

Life sciences startups are clamoring for Aisling’s support: The firm’s partners meet with more than 600 companies each year, but only invest in five to 10. Aisling’s typical investment is $20 million to $40 million.

Purcell has been managing two of Aisling’s funds since 2000. Prior to joining Aisling, Purcell managed the life sciences investment banking group at Chase H&Q. He currently serves on the boards of Aisling portfolio companies Dynova Laboratories and Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals.

Purcell recently sat down with Xconomy New York to chat about life sciences, consumer healthcare, and investing in a space where the payoff is sometimes long to come—and anything but guaranteed.

Xconomy: What is Aisling’s investment philosophy?
Dennis Purcell: We call it “where life science meets lifestyle.” Individuals are taking much more interest in their own health. People are willing to pay out of pocket for … Next Page »

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