Gates Foundation Sells Off Most Health-Care, Pharmaceutical Holdings

Jessica Hodgson
The Wall Street Journal
AUGUST 14, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private philanthropy fund, sold off almost all of its pharmaceutical, biotechnology and health-care investments in the quarter ended June 30, according to a regulatory filing published Friday.

The Seattle-based charity endowment, set up by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and his wife, sold its total holding of 2.5 million shares in health-care giant Johnson & Johnson in the quarter, according to the filing.

The foundation also sold millions of shares in major drug makers, including 14.9 million shares in Schering-Plough Corp., almost 1 million shares in Eli Lilly & Co., 8.1 million shares in Merck & Co. and 3.7 million shares in Wyeth, over the same time period. The foundation no longer holds shares in any of those companies.

Among the other health and life sciences-related investments the foundation liquidated are Allos Therapeutics Inc., InterMune Inc., Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The only life science-related holding the foundation retains is a 3 million-share stake in Seattle Genetics Inc.

The foundation’s decision to drastically reduce its exposure to health-related stocks is striking, as many of its charity grants have been disbursed to address developing country health issues. Its move comes against the background of anxiety among drugmakers and healthcare insurance firms about the potential impact of the Obama administration’s proposed overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, which could put pressure on prescription drug prices.

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