Erika R. Smith has been named the Director of the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale, a new $10 million grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation that will support efforts to turn Yale faculty discoveries into life science treatments, drugs and devices. The Blavatnik Fund is being managed by the Office of Cooperative Research (OCR) which partners with faculty researchers to advance their discoveries into the marketplace.
“I’m looking forward to connecting Yale’s world-class faculty with a source of funding that will be truly transformative,” Erika says. “The Blavatnik Fund will allow us to advance early-stage discoveries into the marketplace faster where they can start impacting lives.”
Licensing leads at OCR will work in partnership with Erika to build on their relationship with faculty innovators and identify technologies poised for commercialization success.
Prior to this role, Erika was the Deputy Director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, a department launched by OCR in 2007 to help entrepreneurs and innovators at Yale start scalable new ventures. There she led several key initiatives including the YEI Innovation Fund, a fund supporting Yale entrepreneurs with $100,000 in seed-stage capital and the Technology Commercialization Program, which matched business students with faculty discoveries to launch successful companies like GestVision and IsoPlexis. Erika will continue to oversee the Business of Biotech series, which offers core skills and building blocks for translating research to faculty and research staff at Yale and UConn.
“Erika has been a key driver in implementing workshops and educational opportunities around commercialization for faculty and researchers,” says Jon Soderstrom, Managing Director of OCR. “She’s developed strong relationships in the venture capital community, with partner organizations at Yale and across Connecticut’s broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition, her background at the intersection of industry and investment makes her uniquely qualified for this role.”
Erika comes to the position with experience as the former Senior Director of Investments with the Center for Innovative Technologies (CIT) where she launched the CIT BIO Lifescience seed fund in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, managing deal sourcing and the investment portfolio. Before investing in startups, she spent 15 years in industry working at leading companies such as Respironics/Philips and IVAX holding key positions in product development, quality assurance, regulatory affairs, business development and Mergers and Acquisitions. She has taken an active role in advancing capital into early companies holding board positions with the Maryland Innovation Initiative Fund in partnership with Johns Hopkins and MD Universities, the UConn Prototype Fund and SBIR/STTR initiatives, and is a Venture Advisor to the seed fund Epidarex Capital. Erika has taught at the National Institutes of Health and has been a recognized guest speaker at Georgetown University’s Masters of Biotechnology program. She holds a bachelor’s in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University.