Private Equity Partner, OrbiMed Advisors, San Francisco, CA


Rishi GuptaComing into law school, I knew that I might choose to pursue a nonlegal career. In fact, for a long time, I debated whether I should go to law school or business school, ultimately deciding on the former because I believed it would be more rigorous and more engaging intellectually. Prior to law school, I had worked in investment banking, where I dealt with clients in the biotechnology and Internet health sectors, and had also spent time doing business development at a healthcare startup. These experiences, together with my undergraduate studies in biochemistry and molecular biology and my continued interest in science, led me to realize that a career that involved the healthcare industry in some way was right for me. I was fortunate to land a position with OrbiMed Advisors during my 1L summer. Luckily for me, someone who I had worked with before law school was hired as a principal at OrbiMed, and he helped to get me an interview that led to the internship. I suppose I did something right during my summer there, because I re-engaged with OrbiMed during my third year of law school, and they extended me an offer for a full-time position after graduation, which I accepted.

I am pleased to be able to write that I am enjoying my work thoroughly. OrbiMed is a healthcare asset management firm that invests in public and private pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, diagnostic, and healthcare information technology companies. I focus my energies on the venture capital side of our business, which means that my job is to find relatively young, relatively small private companies in which to invest. One of the extremely satisfying aspects of what we do is that we continuously meet with entrepreneurs who are unbelievably talented, motivated and passionate about what they do. Once we make an investment, we continue to work with the entrepreneurs and management teams (typically by taking a seat on the company’s board of directors) to make the company a success.

My specific responsibilities include sourcing deals, conducting due diligence (including scientific, clinical, financial, business & legal diligence) on companies that we seriously consider for investment, and proposing and negotiating investment terms. Additionally, once we invest, I am often involved as a director or observer on the company’s board and am expected to continue to contribute to the company’s growth and progress. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the job is the incredible variety of work; this helps to ensure that boredom is a relatively rare phenomenon. In venture capital, we have to be jacks-of-all-trades, so one day I might be speaking to physicians about a particular disease and existing therapies for it; the next day I will be attending a board meeting for a portfolio company; the following day I may be investigating the intellectual property position around a certain drug; after that I will introduce the CEO of one of our portfolio companies to potential partners or potential hires; and I might close off the week by trying to ascertain what kinds of studies the FDA will require before it will approve a particular drug or medical device. The other feature of my work that holds strong appeal for me is the constant learning. Every day, I learn something new about science and medicine, clinical trials, FDA regulatory requirements, patent law, business strategy, and so on. My hours are fairly long (50-60 hours a week is typical), but they are fairly flexible, and highly predictable (there are almost never any emergencies that require me to stay late into the night or cancel plans). I frequently travel for board meetings, conferences, and site visits to companies.

What advice would I give to a Yale Law School student looking to get into healthcare venture capital? Go to medical school. In all seriousness, my background is somewhat unusual in my field, as the vast majority of the people in the field these days have either an MD or a PhD in the biological sciences (or both!). However, as my experience shows, the lack of those credentials is not fatal; in fact, I know of at least two YLS graduates ­who are also not MDs or PhDs­ who are partners at healthcare venture capital firms. In fact, legal training actually is useful in this field, particularly in the areas of contracts, regulation, and intellectual property. If you are unable to find a position immediately, I would strongly suggest working in a service role (whether as a lawyer or a banker or a consultant) where most or all of your time is spent with healthcare clients. This will provide you with the appropriate industry expertise and network of contacts to help you make the transition when an opportunity presents itself in the future.