The Blavatnik Family Foundation, whose historic gift in 2016 helped create what has become Yale’s flagship life science accelerator, has made an additional $40 million donation that will increase the number of research awards available to Yale scientists, support a wider range of biomedical innovations, and reach deeper into the Yale community to support new and innovative research.
Run by Yale Ventures, a campus-wide initiative that supports innovation at Yale, the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale creates a bridge between early-stage, innovative research and the development of high-impact biomedical products and health technologies through the support of start-ups and industry partnerships.
Areas of focus include oncology, infectious disease, neurology, immunology, digital health, ophthalmology, metabolic disease, rare diseases, platform technologies, and biological tools.
Since its launch, the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale has stimulated biomedical entrepreneurship across the Yale community. So far, it has supported 63 distinct projects through more than $20 million in direct funding for research and fellowships. This funding has resulted in the creation of 19 spinoff companies that have raised $254 million in venture and non-dilutive funding, 3 projects that have achieved FDA Investigational New Drug (IND) status, and 4 clinical trials have been initiated.
The Blavatnik Fund also fosters the careers of promising entrepreneurs through the Blavatnik Associates and the Blavatnik Fellows in Life Science Entrepreneurship programs. To date, 53 graduate and post-doctoral students have gained first-hand experience in conducting diligence research on new technologies through the Blavatnik Associates program. The first 17 Blavatnik Fellows have gone on to launch careers in life science investing, pursue business positions within larger biotechnology companies, and join start-ups launched through Yale faculty-led or Yale technology-based spin outs.
The Blavatnik Fund’s new $40 million expansion, which represents a key gift in Yale’s comprehensive For Humanity campaign, will continue to support even more world-changing innovations and foster careers in life science research.
By providing essential resources to faculty members, the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale has helped to accelerate the pace of new research and technology, opened pathways for the flow of ideas and breakthroughs from the academy to industry, and helped to speed the deployment of discoveries for the benefit of society,” said Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. “I am deeply grateful for this generous gift from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and its ongoing support of Yale investigators. I look forward to the knowledge and potential we will unlock together in the years ahead.
In practice, the Blavatnik Fund serves to introduce Yale faculty to a new framework for translating academic research into high-potential healthcare solutions, resulting in spin-out companies, acquisition, or partnership with industry to deliver exciting new therapies, platform technologies, diagnostics, and devices. Through training and funding support, Yale faculty receive mentoring in entrepreneurship, exposure, and networking with Yale’s extensive entrepreneurial community, and resources to pursue research with the highest potential for improving patient care. Successful outcomes also include industry-sponsored research agreements and successful securing of non-dilutive funding to advance the technology further. A portion of the proceeds from successful ventures, license agreements, and product development is re-invested in the program to fund additional research and innovation.
As a result, the number of venture-backed startups formed at Yale has doubled from an average of five per year prior to the creation of the fund to ten or more per year after its inception.
Among faculty awardees who have received support from the Blavatnik Fund is Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology and professor of dermatology and of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and epidemiology. A three-time winner of Blavatnik Fund grants for her work in immunology, Dr. Iwasaki has developed projects that have resulted in three Yale spin-out companies.
“We are thrilled to be recipients of the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation, most recently for our new innovation on a pan-viral antibody strategy,” said Iwasaki. “This award will support the optimization and testing of antibodies that can target a large class of viruses, because the antibodies are going after an evolutionarily conserved feature of viral proteins. I am grateful to the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Yale Ventures, and the advisory board members who provided many helpful suggestions along the way.”
The additional $40 million in funding will expand the research awards program and provide further support to impact healthcare innovation. The amount of award funding available for biomedical research will increase, and the scope will grow to include digital health innovations.
Finally, funds will also be used to increase the numbers of high-quality applicants through faculty outreach and diversity initiatives such as amplifyHERscience, with a goal of increasing the innovation and diversity of Yale faculty among the Blavatnik applicants and awardees.
“By supporting Yale faculty, researchers, and entrepreneurs, the Fund has accelerated groundbreaking scientific advances to improve people’s lives,” said philanthropist and foundation founder Len Blavatnik. “I am proud of the Fund’s enormously positive impact to date and I look forward to many future discoveries and developments.”
Launched by Yale University in 2022, Yale Ventures seeks to foster and accelerate a vibrant entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem that increases support, resources, and opportunities for Yale innovators—faculty and students—as they translate their ideas and discoveries into new ventures that will positively impact the world’s greatest challenges.
The Blavatnik Family Foundation supports world-renowned educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and across the globe. Headed by Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, the Foundation advances and promotes innovation, discovery, and creativity to benefit the whole of society. Over the past decade, the Foundation has contributed more than $1 billion to over 250 organizations.