Yale University announces 2021 Blavatnik Fund Award Winners: Linking scientific discovery and entrepreneurial potential

The latest winners of the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale University are pursuing new, break-through scientific discoveries that will promote life-changing treatment and achieve potential commercial success.

The innovation fund, made possible by a grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, supports Yale faculty, offering a potent combination of funding and expertise in applied research and technology in the life sciences. Its latest winners will share $2.5 million.

“During a year of unmatched uncertainty, the continued generosity and partnership from the Blavatnik Family Foundation has helped recognize the stellar work of our Yale faculty. The commitment to impact through innovation remains steadfast and is a primary reason entrepreneurship at Yale is thriving,” explained Michael C. Crair, PhD, vice provost for research, Yale University.

The 2021 Blavatnik Fund winners at Yale are:

  • Choukri Ben Mamoun, PhD, professor of medicine (infectious diseases) and of microbial pathogenesis, for Virtus Therapeutics: A Novel Therapy for Pantothenate Kinase-Associated Neurodegeneration.
  • Demetrios Braddock,MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology, for Net Therapeutics: Targeting NETs in Human Disease.
  • Joseph Contessa, MD, PhD, professor of therapeutic radiology and of pharmacology, for Apira: Developing Therapeutic OST Inhibitors.
  • Anjelica Gonzalez, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, for Aero Therapeutics: Preclinical Validation of Low-Cost Versatile Respirator.
  • Mustafa Khokha, MD, professor of pediatrics (critical care medicine), for Small Molecule Regulation of β-catenin Nuclear Transport: New Targets Against Cancer.
  • Nikhil Malvankar, PhD, assistant professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, for Faster, Reliable & Scalable DNA Sequencing using Biomolecular Electronics.
  • Faye Rogers, PhD, associate professor of therapeutic radiology, for TargetGene Therapeutics: Direct Targeting of Amplified Cancer Driver Genes as a Therapeutic Strategy.

Yale University said a significant obstacle to the development of early-stage university discoveries is the lack of funding for the proof-of-concept and validation studies needed to demonstrate commercial potential.

To overcome this barrier, the fund provides monetary and business development support to help validate nascent technologies and identify potential industry partners to advance these technologies to the marketplace, the university said.

This year’s Blavatnik awards marks the fifth year of the fund which, to date, has supported 33 projects and provided over $10 million in funding.

“The impact this grant has on our innovation ecosystem has been extraordinary. We eagerly await helping this next group of innovators drive their projects towards proof-of-concept and commercialization,” said Bill Wiesler, director of new ventures, Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale.

Since the fund’s inception in 2016, Blavatnik-funded projects at Yale have resulted in three FDA-Approved INDs, two licensing deals, and eleven funded ventures that have raised $107 million to-date.