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Faculty Entrepreneurs Receive Research Support from Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale

May 21, 2021
by Michelle McQueen

The Office of Cooperative Research (OCR) at Yale University has announced the 2021 Blavatnik Award recipients during an award ceremony at the Yale Innovation Summit. The Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale, made possible by a generous grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, supports Yale faculty in the commercialization of applied research and technology in the life sciences.

A significant obstacle to the development of early-stage university discoveries is the lack of funding for the proof-of-concept and validation studies needed to demonstrate commercial potential. To overcome this barrier, the fund provides monetary and business development support to help validate nascent technologies and identify potential industry partners to advance these technologies to the marketplace.

“During a year of unmatched uncertainty, I am even more grateful for the continued generosity and partnership from the Blavatnik Family Foundation. Their commitment to impact through innovation remains steadfast and is a primary reason entrepreneurship at Yale is thriving,” explained Michael C. Crair, PhD, Vice Provost for Research, Yale University.

Seven new awards were made this year to top presenters at Yale OCR’s PitchFest in December of 2020.The new 2021 Blavatnik awardees are:

· Choukri Ben Mamoun, PhD, professor of medicine (infectious diseases) and of microbial pathogenesis, for Virtus Therapeutics: A Novel Therapy for Pantothenate Kinase-Associated Neurodegeneration.

· Demetrios Braddock, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology, for Net Therapeutics: Targeting NETs in Human Disease

· Joseph Contessa, MD, PhD, professor of therapeutic radiology and of pharmacology, for Apira: Developing Therapeutic OST Inhibitors

· Anjelica Gonzalez, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, for Aero Therapeutics: Preclinical Validation of Low-Cost Versatile Respirator

· Mustafa Khokha, MD, professor of pediatrics (critical care medicine), for Small Molecule Regulation of β-catenin Nuclear Transport: New Targets Against Cancer

· Nikhil Malvankar, PhD, assistant professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, for Faster, Reliable & Scalable DNA Sequencing using Biomolecular Electronics

· Faye Rogers, PhD, associate professor of therapeutic radiology, for TargetGene Therapeutics: Direct Targeting of Amplified Cancer Driver Genes as a Therapeutic Strategy

Bill Wiesler, PhD, MBA, Director of New Ventures and of Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale commented: “This year’s group of Blavatnik awards completes our 5th year of the fund, which is supporting a total of 33 projects with over $10 million in funding. The impact this grant has on our innovation ecosystem has been extraordinary. Doubling the number of venture-backed spinouts coming out of Yale each year can be directly attributable to the hundreds of connections we make between Blavatnik participants and industry leaders. We eagerly await helping this next group of innovators drive their projects towards proof-of-concept and commercialization.”

Since the Fund’s inception in 2016, Blavatnik-funded projects at Yale have resulted in three FDA-Approved INDs, two licensing deals, and eleven funded ventures that have raised $107 million to-date.

About the Yale Office of Cooperative Research:

Since its founding in 1982, the Yale Office of Cooperative Research (OCR) has built a significant portfolio of inventions and patents and has grown into an engine of regional economic development. Its mission is to facilitate the translation of research from Yale’s labs into products and services that benefit society. OCR is recognized as a leading force for catalyzing economic growth by identifying, counseling and nurturing early-stage technologies and guiding the transition into robust companies. More information is available at

About the Blavatnik Family Foundation:

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of world-renowned educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia, and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, a global industrialist and philanthropist and the founder and chairman of Access Industries, a privately held industrial group based in the U.S. with global strategic interests. See more at is external).

Submitted by Robert Forman on May 21, 2021