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Blavatnik foundation increases gift to spur entrepreneurship

Medicine@Yale, 2018 - Sept Oct


Yale University has received a new $15 million grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, headed by global industrialist and philanthropist Len Blavatnik, to expand the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale. Established in 2016 with a grant of $10 million, the Blavatnik Fund advances entrepreneurship in the life sciences at Yale and expedites the development, application, and commercialization of breakthrough research.

The added grant will build on the fund’s early successes in bolstering translational research and propelling the work of investigators toward the marketplace.

The fund provides strategic resources to departments university-wide through research grants to faculty members and a fellowship program. These resources ensure that commercially relevant research can flourish and move expeditiously to commercialization and application. The fund is structured to be sustainable; over time, revenue from successfully launched technologies will be reinvested to support future projects.

The fund awards pilot grants to support exploratory and proof-of-concept activities, as well as larger development grants for more established projects. In its first award cycle, 2016–2017, the fund made eight awards for projects advancing therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease, fibrosis, and end-stage tumors, along with promising early-stage research seeking to treat cancer and diabetes. Six recipients of grants in the second award cycle, including four School of Medicine faculty, were announced at the 2018 Yale Innovation Summit, which drew almost 1,000 investors, entrepreneurs, and scientists to the Yale School of Management on May 9.

“These new awards, along with last year’s, reflect how extraordinarily innovative our faculty members are,” says Robert J. Alpern, MD, dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine. “It is a compliment to them, and a boost to the ultimate impact of their work, that the Blavatnik Fund has chosen to support them.”

The new infusion of funds from the Blavatnik Family Foundation will enable the Yale Office of Cooperative Research (OCR), which administers the Blavatnik Fund, to increase the number of awards given in future years. The grant also will expand the Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Science Entrepreneurship, which engages promising early-career scientists and business people who share a passion for entrepreneurship in the biomedical sciences. The fellows will work in close conjunction with faculty innovators and OCR to develop the commercial potential of discoveries made at Yale.

“Researchers in the life sciences are constantly making novel discoveries that have a tremendous positive impact on our lives, especially in the prevention and treatment of disease,” says Blavatnik, who established and heads the Blavatnik Family Foundation and is founder and chair of Access Industries. “Our hope is that by fostering a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem at Yale, we can significantly accelerate the application of these breakthrough discoveries to benefit those in need.”

“The continued support of the Blavatnik Family Foundation provides vital resources for Yale investigators, who are leading incredible projects to cross the gap between early-stage research and creation of products that improve lives and society,” says President Peter Salovey, PhD ’86. “I am deeply grateful for the foundation’s confidence in the valuable research underway across campus.”

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of leading and transformative educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions worldwide. Among the foundation’s programs are the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists that support early career scientists and engineers in the United States, the UK, and Israel. To date, the foundation has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to over 250 institutions worldwide.

2018 awardees and their research projects

In the photo above, from left, after Peter Schiffer, PhD, vice provost for research:

Alanna Schepartz, PhD, Sterling Professor of Chemistry: “Cell permeable miniature proteins: demonstrated platform superiority against third party platforms;”

Anna Marie Pyle, PhD, Sterling Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, and professor of chemistry; and Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology: “RIG-I agonists as next-gen immunotherapies;”

Aaron M. Ring, MD, PhD, assistant professor of immunobiology: “Engineered IL-18 immunotherapy: An untapped cytokine pathway;”

Jeffrey R. Bender, MD, Robert I. Levy Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and professor of immunobiology: “Novel oligonucleotide strategy to specifically inhibit IL-17A gene expression shows in vivo activity in animal model of multiple sclerosis;”

Paul E. Turner, PhD, Elihu Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: “Phage therapy increases effectiveness of antibiotics for treating multi-drug resistant bacterial infections”

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