Johns Hopkins University on Prowl for Healthcare Investor

By David G. Barry

Institutional investors have traditionally hired individuals to deploy capital in specific asset categories, whether it be equities, private equity, real estate or perhaps credit.

Jason Perlioni, chief investment officer at Johns Hopkins University, appears to be interested in taking a different tact. According to a job description posted by the Baltimore university earlier this month, it is seeking a director of investments to focus exclusively on healthcare. According to the posting, the new hire will be an “integral member” of JHU’s investment office and will lead its healthcare investment activities. The person will “play a key role conducting due diligence on new and existing investment managers across public and private equity and credit, with a particular focus on biotechnology, pharmaceutical, healthcare and related technology investment opportunities.”

JHU is seeking a person with “demonstrable success in prior healthcare work experience, which may include roles in investment management, investment banking, management consulting and/or corporate strategy, and/or as a physician taking care of patients.” A Johns Hopkins spokesperson declined to comment about the posting, saying the university “does not typically comment on hiring plans.”

One institutional investor said he is aware of a few other institutions that have assigned investment professionals to spend some of their time focused on a particular segment. What Johns Hopkins may be seeking to do sounds “newish,” the source said. He, as well as several other investors spoken to by Markets Group, said the question is whether Johns Hopkins – a world-renowned medical school – is just adding this position because of its expertise or whether it will add industry professionals that also focus on, for example, energy, financial services or technology.

One industry observer, who called Perlioni “innovative,” said they would not be surprised if JHU eventually did add other investment segments. Perlioni joined JHU in 2017 as its second-ever CIO. He previously spent 10 years as CIO of Pritzker Group Asset Management. The investment office is responsible for investing the endowments for the university, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and other related endowed entities totaling more than $8 billion, among many other assets,

Another institutional investor said she has not “seen people hiring industry experts” and that such a move would “make sense if the person was doing a lot of direct investing or co-investing.” She, as well, as others spoken to by Markets Group, expressed concern about the future job prospects of the person taking the role. Focusing exclusively on healthcare would enable them to “get into the weeds,” said one. But, asked another, would that knowledge be of value if the person sought to go to another institutional investor or wanted to become a CIO?

Clearly, segmentation is a key part of the investment world with many venture capital, private equity and hedge fund firms focused exclusively on such segments as technology, healthcare and energy. But, as one individual pointed out, the Yale Investments Office has long backed healthcare-specific firms and has not felt a need to add a dedicated healthcare person to its team.

The search for a healthcare-specific director of investments comes on the heels of Mark Rooney joining the investment office as director of investments. The school’s spokesperson said that Rooney’s hiring is separate from the search for the healthcare-focused investment director.

Rooney, according to a university statement, will work across the entire investment portfolio and will focus on its public and private investments in value-oriented strategies, including public equity, distressed credit and opportunistic value investments.

He will report to Christopher Lenox, managing director of investments, who joined the investment office in 2018. Rooney was most recently the lead portfolio manager/analyst on the international equity value team at Lazard Asset Management. His background includes serving as a portfolio manager at LRV Capital and a partner at Millgate Capital.

Another member of the JHU investment team, Joanna Pratt, left in February. She had joined the investment office at the same time as Lenox, also as a managing director. Her future plans are not known. Prior to Johns Hopkins, she was an investment team director at Stanford Management Co. at Stanford University.