Finalists Named for the Blavatnik Fund Highlighting Promising Research Across Yale

Seventeen applications from Yale innovators have been named finalists for grants and resources from the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale, competing for up to $300,000 in Development grants or up to $100,000 in Pilot grants to accelerate their life science research into the marketplace. The $10 million fund supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation launched this year to advance entrepreneurship in the life sciences at Yale and is managed by the Yale Office of Cooperative Research. Over 60 researchers applied for funding from across the Yale science disciplines, including chemistry, pharmacology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, obstetrics, biophysics and immunobiology.

Erika R. Smith, Director of the Fund, says “We were encouraged by the significant interest from faculty and researchers across the university who have identified opportunities to accelerate their innovative discoveries into the market where they can begin to make an impact.”

The seven Development finalists and 10 Pilot grant finalists will begin work on their final applications with assistance from Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) and a select group of experienced postdoctoral students known as Blavatnik Associates. EIRs supporting the applicants include Susan Froshauer, President and CEO of Connecticut United for Research Excellence and Ron Lennox, a partner in the investment firm Alia Ventures. An Investment Advisory Board made up of leading executives and investors from successful life sciences companies and chaired by Chairman Fred Cohen, cofounder of TPG Biotech, will select the winning proposals. Awardees of the Blavatnik Funding and resources will be announced by Yale President Peter Salovey at a closing ceremony at the Yale Innovation Summit, a day-long event for Yale innovators and investors on May 10.

“The awards ceremony at the Yale Innovation Summit represents the culmination of years of research and lab work leading up to –and following—these discoveries,” says Smith. “These finalists have developed exciting ways to target disease and improve medical procedures and the Blavatnik Fund will offer them the opportunity to see their discoveries advance to the stage where they can begin to transform lives.”

The 2017 Finalists for the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale:

Development Grant Finalists (PIs): 

Alanna Schepartz -  Milton Harris ‘29 Ph.D. Professor of Chemistry & Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Innovation: A robust technology for trafficking diverse protein materials into the cytosol and nucleus with high efficiency and intact form to deliver personalized therapeutics.

Andrew Xiao – Assistant Professor of Genetics. Innovation: Developing therapeutics around a novel epigenetic mechanism aimed at end-stage tumors that are resistant to standard therapies.

Anthony Van den Pol - Professor of Neurosurgery and of Psychiatry. Innovation: Advancing a promising virus that can both directly destroy cancerous tumors (including brain, melanoma and ovarian cancer cells) and can enhance an immune response against tumors.

Anton Bennett - Professor of Pharmacology and of Comparative Medicine; Co-Director, Program in Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism; Director, BBS Minority Affairs. Innovation: Developing a chemical drug design platform to establish rich intellectual property for a first-in-class therapeutic for the treatment of fibrosis which accounts for nearly 45% of all deaths in the developed world.

Stephen Strittmatter - Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and Professor of Neuroscience; Director, Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair; Director, Memory Disorders Clinic; Director, Yale Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Innovation: Developing select inhibitors to slow, halt or reverse the course of Alzheimer’s disease.

W. Mark Saltzman - Goizueta Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical & Environmental Engineering & Physiology and Michael Girardi -  Professor of Dermatology; Director, Residency Program; Vice Chair. Innovation: A multi-functional bioadhesive nanoparticle platform that has the potential to revolutionize the suncare industry.

Qin Yan – Associate Professor of Pathology. Innovation: Developing novel potent inhibitors of enzymes that contribute to tumor growth, metastasis, and drug resistance of breast cancer, lung cancer and melanoma.

Pilot Grant Finalists:

Michael Simons - Robert W. Berliner Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Professor of Cell Biology. Innovation: Discovery of a molecular pathway that drives the atherosclerotic (plaque buildup) progression, leading to stroke, heart attacks and other diseases that can be targeted with molecular therapies.

Anna Marie Pyle - William Edward Gilbert Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Professor of Chemistry; Director, Division of Biological Sciences. Innovation: Developing a proprietary class of molecules to be used as tumor vaccines.

Elliott Brown - Assistant Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging. Innovation: A novel bone marrow aspiration device that limits blood contamination and maximizes stem cell recovery while also increasing the area of bone sampled 45-fold compared to current devices.

Hugh Taylor - Anita O’Keeffe Young Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, Yale School of Medicine; Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yale-New Haven Hospital. Innovation: First diagnostic and management tool for endometriosis, a leading cause of severe pain and infertility.

Kevin Sheth - Associate Professor of Neurology and of Neurosurgery; Division Chief, Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology; Director, Neuroscience ICU; Chief, Clinical Research, Department of Neurology. Innovation: A real-time monitoring device for ischemic stroke that involves wearable sensors and a custom analysis platform that facilitates ultra-rapid activation of acute stroke systems.

Aaron Ring – Assistant Professor Immunobiology. Innovation: Developing a new technology called BASEHIT which can identify new targets for the treatment of microbiota-driven diseases.

Andrew Miranker - Professor of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry. Innovation: Advancing a small molecule that is water soluble, non-toxic and crosses the plasma membrane and can work in conjunction with existing diabetes drugs to improve long-term b-cell health.

Bill Sessa - Alfred Gilman Professor of Pharmacology and Professor of Medicine (Cardiology). Innovation: Novel treatment for familial hypercholesterolemia, a rare disease affecting nearly 14 million people worldwide.

Martin Kriegel - Assistant Professor of Immunobiology and of Medicine (Rheumatology). Innovation: Developing a vaccine to treat systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease affecting multiple organs.

Nina Stachenfeld - Senior Research Scientist in Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences. Innovation: Developing the first diagnostic test for schizophrenia and depression.

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Yale Innovation & Entrepreneurship, (203) 804-1911,