Columbia School of Engineering: Funding discoveries for now and the future

Len Blavatnik’s landmark contribution to the Columbia School of Engineering is helping the school stay at the cutting edge of research and innovation.

In 2018, Len Blavatnik provided a $10 million grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation to the Columbia School of Engineering, one of the top engineering schools in the US. As a Columbia alumnus, Blavatnik recognizes the importance of the School’s interdisciplinary approach to research and its highly conducive environment for revolutionary breakthroughs.

The grant has allowed the school to establish two major initiatives. The first is the Blavatnik Fund for Engineering Innovations in Health, which helps the school invest in top tier graduate talent, providing funding for important early-stage research and accelerate the translation of research from the laboratory to the marketplace. The second initiative is the Blavatnik Doctoral Fellows, an elite group of doctorate researchers that the school is able to support at critical stages in their research.

Two years on from the announcement of the gift, Mary Boyce, Dean of Columbia Engineering, shares how the school is benefitting from the contributions:

At Columbia Engineering, the Blavatnik Fund for Engineering Innovations in Health supports both a cohort of doctoral students early in their studies and research acceleration funds to propel interdisciplinary research at the interface of engineering and medicine. We are so grateful for the support of the Blavatnik Family Foundation in cultivating the next generation of engineering talent and helping to advance breakthrough discoveries that will truly change lives and benefit humanity.

The grants are similarly appreciated by the academics themselves. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, The Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences at Columbia Engineering, was one of the initial cohort of researchers to be awarded support through the Blavatnik Fund. Among other projects, Vunjak-Novakovic’s team has pioneered an approach to regenerating acutely injured lungs which has substantially increased the donor pool.

Vunjak-Novakovic explains: “Len Blavatnik’s gift has been enormously helpful in accelerating the translational arm of our research. His support has enabled us to work quickly and efficiently, reaching critical milestones for developing medical technologies. Our two-year STAR (SEAS Translational Acceleration Research) grant for 2018-2020, made possible by his generosity, has supported our new approach to regenerating injured human lungs, providing more lungs for transplantation for many patients in need. The funding has also enabled us to work with transplant surgeons and engineers on practical, translational aspects of lung regeneration.’’