Yale University has received a $15 million grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, headed by American industrialist and philanthropist Len Blavatnik, to expand the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale. First 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 new grant will build on the fund’s early successes in bolstering translational research and propelling the work of investigators toward the marketplace.
The Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale helps to accelerate the development of important early-stage discoveries in the life sciences into medical or commercial applications. 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 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,” said President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. “I am deeply grateful for the foundation’s confidence in the valuable research underway across campus.”
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 acceleration 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. For 2017–2018, the fund received 76 proposals from 23 different departments across Yale. The award winners will be announced at the Yale Innovation Summit on May 9, 2018. The new $15 million grant enhancement will enable Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research, which administers the Blavatnik Fund, to increase the number of awards given.
The new grant will also expand the Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Sciences 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 the Office of Cooperative Research to develop the commercial potential of discoveries made at Yale. The fellows will gain hands-on experience in structuring licensing agreements, refining development plans with the help of mentors and external advisors, and gaining feedback from venture investors. The Blavatnik Fellows for 2018–2019, chosen from among dozens of highly qualified applicants both inside and outside of Yale, are Sorin Fedeles, Ph.D., Caroline Rufo, Ph.D., Timothy Siegert, Ph.D., and Milica Vukmirovic, Ph.D.
“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,” said Blavatnik. “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 Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of renowned educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and throughout the world. The foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, a major American and British entrepreneur and philanthropist and the founder and chair of Access Industries, a privately held U.S. industrial group with global strategic interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, real estate, and venture capital.