Yale researchers have an opportunity to receive substantial funding for their promising life sciences research through the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale. And, this year, there’s a new twist: faculty submit a five-minute pitch deck for consideration, and 30 or more qualified candidates selected by the board will be able to participate in Pitchfest, an all-day event where they will present their pitches live to an audience of leading experts from Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Abbvie, Launch Capital, and other top global pharmaceutical and investment firms.
It’s exactly the kind of exposure faculty members need if they want to get on the path to commercialization, says Bill Wiesler, Ph.D., M.B.A., director of the Blavatnik Fund and director of New Ventures at the Yale Office of Cooperative Research (OCR).
“The most important step to getting commercialized is to get connected with industry experts who want to engage your discovery,” says Wiesler. “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.” The event will include networking breaks when presenting faculty can discuss their findings directly with potential industry partners.
This is the third year that OCR has overseen the Blavatnik Fund, which began as a $10 million infusion to spur life science discovery innovations from Yale’s labs from the Blavatnik Family Foundation and grew by an additional $15 million this year. The fund will award $2.4 million this year, up from $1.5 million last year, and faculty are eligible to receive up to $300,000.
The straightforward application process opens the door for faculty across Yale’s life sciences to highlight the potential of their innovation in 6-8 slides that emphasize the uniqueness of their product or discovery; the broader market and competition; the strength of the team; and the proposed path to financial success. Past winners have come from across the life sciences spectrum, including immunobiology; molecular, cellular and developmental biology; chemistry; biomedical engineering; neuroscience; and genetics. While 12 of the 13 awards made so far have gone to drug discovery, they’ve addressed a range of therapeutic areas, including oncology, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and fibrosis.
What distinguishes the winners is the novelty of the idea. Wiesler says Blavatnik selection panels are looking for research that addresses an important unmet need where there is real commercial interest, the technology is nearly ready and patentable, and investigators are committed to moving their discovery forward.
“There is enormous industry enthusiasm to hear from Yale faculty about the latest breakthroughs in their labs,” Wiesler says. “These could be the next billion-dollar products meeting unmet medical needs.”
Applications to the Pitchfest, the first step in the Blavatnik Fund application process, are due Oct. 30. All Yale faculty and postdocs with life science discoveries are eligible to apply. Applications can be submitted through this link. Pitchfest will be held Wed., Dec. 12, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Alexion, 100 College St. Register on eventbrite.