The Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale University: Accelerating scientific research to Improve Health, Community Well-being

Five minutes. That’s the snippet of time Yale University’s leading life sciences investigators get next month to pitch their biotech proposals competing for awards from the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale.

It’s the latest initiative in the partnership between the Blavatnik Family Foundation and Yale, bridging the gap between innovative, early-stage life science research and the successful development of high-impact biomedical products. That integrated approach combines essential funding with development and business expertise, leading to commercial partnerships that bring forth biomedical discoveries that create value and benefit society.

The semifinalists at PitchFest 2020 are gearing up for the virtual event Dec. 3-4, when nearly two dozen life sciences investigators will pitch their Blavatnik accelerator fund proposals to a remote audience that includes biotech, health care, pharmaceuticals, digital medicine, and venture investors interested in advanced projects.

The presenters, who will showcase the uniqueness of their product or discovery, are competing not only for attention from those companies but also for separate, preliminary cash prizes awarded by judges in various categories.

Bill Wiesler, director of the Blavatnik Fund and director of New Ventures at the Yale Office of Cooperative Research, told Yale News that a key step to getting commercialized is to demonstrate for industry experts that the research and technology addresses important unmet needs and offers a path to financial success.

“Pitchfest offers an opportunity for Yale’s leading life science investigators to forge connections with biotech and pharma firms and investors who can help move their innovations forward — which will, in turn, make them strong candidates for Blavatnik funding,” he said.

Established in 2016, The Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale has funded 26 awards totaling over $8 million, supporting Yale faculty members who are eligible to receive up to $300,000 per award. Eight new companies have been launched, collectively raising over $67 million in total funding.

Two projects have received U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved Investigational New Drug (IND) designations to initiate clinical trials in patients with cystic fibrosis and COVID-19.

The program stands apart from others by fostering each stage of entrepreneurship – from discovery to commercialization. It provides a combination of financial support, sustained engagement and feedback from business experts, as well as intensive opportunities to develop the critical entrepreneurial skills needed for success.

The specialties supported by the fund are diverse and cutting-edge, including breakthrough research and technologies in immunobiology, genetics and genomics, biomedical and chemical engineering, ecology and evolutionary biology, radiology,  and comparative medicine.