Harvard University just got a shot in the arm from one of its alumni: the Blavatnik Family Foundation donated $50 million to Harvard to launch an initiative to expedite the development of basic science discoveries into new therapies for patients and cures for disease. The Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator aims to identify early-stage technologies that show promise, upgrade their value, and prepare them for licensing and commercial development.

The gift, according to Harvard, will also create the Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Science Entrepreneurship Program at Harvard Business School (HBS) to provide M.B.A. students with experience in life science entrepreneurship through exposure to the biomedical projects supported by the Accelerator. The Blavatnik Family Foundation is itself headed by a Harvard M.B.A. graduate—Len Blavatnik, class of 1989.

“By partnering with Harvard’s world-class biomedical research division, I am delighted to help accelerate the development of new therapies,” Blavatnik said. “Moreover, by increasing the collaborative efforts between Harvard Business School and Harvard’s scientific community, we will empower the next generation of life science entrepreneurs and provide a further catalyst for innovation and research development.”

Harvard says that the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, which will be operated within the university’s Office of Technology Development, builds upon the success of the first Biomedical Accelerator Fund, which was created five years ago by Isaac T. Kohlberg, the university’s senior associate provost and CTO, and which was also funded in part with support from the Blavatnik Family Foundation. The original Accelerator Fund has funded 37 projects, half of which are, according to Harvard, already advancing through alliances with biopharmaceutical partners or the creation of new companies. The expanded Accelerator program will focus particularly on therapeutic opportunities and is structured to become self-sustaining.

Back in February of 2009, the Blavatnik Family Foundation also gave Harvard two gifts totaling $10 million in support of its scientific and technological research, half of which went to the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT to support cancer vaccine research, and the other half, the Harvard University Technology Development Accelerator Fund

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