The Blavatnik Family Foundation has pledged $200 million to Harvard Medical School to accelerate the pace of therapeutic discovery and support initiatives aimed at solving some of humanity’s most acute biomedical challenges. The gift, the largest in the School’s 236-year history, will help propel Harvard’s mission in transforming health through curiosity-driven research that stimulates the development of new therapies and tools to diagnose and prevent disease.
What does this transformational gift fund?
The gift will propel HMS on its mission to transform human health by catalyzing basic discovery and translation into next-generation precision therapies. It will do so by supporting four key areas:
- A therapeutics initiative to enhance the impact of fundamental curiosity-driven research and catalyze the development of new therapies
- Fertile intellectual communities to integrate data science and artificial intelligence capabilities and applications and the recruitment of promising bioengineers, physicists, quantitative analysts and computational biologists.
- A Collaborative Grants Program to inspire cross-disciplinary research collaborations across the Harvard life sciences ecosystem
- The Blavatnik Harvard Life Lab Longwood to provide incubator space for early-stage, high-potential biotech start-ups
How will this gift help accelerate the pace of therapeutic discovery?
This gift will support a School-wide therapeutics initiative designed to identify novel approaches to the conceptualization, discovery and development of therapies, as well as train scientists in therapeutic translation. Additionally, this gift will support new and enhanced technology platforms—imaging and visualization, single-cell sequencing and high-throughput screening—which will spark innovation in both fundamental and translational discovery and bridge bench-to-bedside applications across the Harvard life sciences ecosystem.
What is the Blavatnik Harvard Life Lab Longwood?
The Blavatnik Harvard Life Lab Longwood will be a collaborative workspace for early-stage, high-potential biotech and life sciences start-ups founded by Harvard students, alumni, postdoctoral scholars and faculty. The planned 15,000-square-foot lab will be located on the HMS campus, in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area. Building on the success of the pioneering Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab in Allston, this new lab will offer the Longwood community a closer, more convenient location under the same infrastructure and governance. Part of the Harvard Innovation Labs ecosystem, it will provide users with diverse resources, including business building, industry-specific programming and expert advisors and mentors.
What is the Blavatnik Institute?
The Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School will recognize the unique identity of the scientific enterprise housed on the HMS Quadrangle, encompassing the School’s 10 academic departments.
Led by HMS Dean George Q. Daley, the Blavatnik Institute will be home to world-class faculty who aim to solve the greatest problems of human health through fundamental and translational biomedical science research. With the support of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Blavatnik Institute will foster creative new collaborations with clinical partners at the 15 Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutions, as well as with other Harvard schools and peer institutions, to deliver on our mission to develop solutions to major biomedical challenges.
The 10 academic departments that will make up the Blavatnik Institute include Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Biomedical Informatics, Cell Biology, Genetics, Global Health and Social Medicine, Health Care Policy, Microbiology and Immunobiology, Neurobiology, Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, and Systems Biology.
How will this gift and the collaborative grants support the HMS goal of building bridges across disciplines?
Unraveling the mysteries of science and medicine requires a constellation of ideas, perspectives and intellectual modes of inquiry united by a common goal and zeroing in on a single problem. This gift will support a robust collaborative-grants program with the expressed purpose of bringing scientists together to solve some of humanity’s most pressing biomedical challenges. Funding will be awarded to the most promising research teams on the HMS campus and at its 15 affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes. Collectively, these grant-funded partnerships will accelerate research that transcends disciplines and institutions to benefit human health.
Will the gift enable the recruitment of new faculty?
This gift will enable HMS to enrich its pool of scientific talent by recruiting bioengineers, physicists, quantitative analysts and computational biologists as part of the broader strategy to advance therapeutics. The resulting expertise will be leveraged to harness new data-driven and AI-powered technologies that will advance biological research, build and manage new core technology facilities and train and support fellow scientists.
Why does Harvard Medical School need this support?
HMS needs funding because the leading causes of death in the U.S., as well as conditions with the highest disease burdens, require better treatments and cures. HMS needs funding because the world’s rare and orphaned diseases require patient capital and a long-term focus uncommon to private enterprises—work that academic medical centers must continue to lead. HMS needs funding because the world’s poorest and most marginalized populations continue to suffer from inequitable access to quality care.
And HMS needs funding because the cost of conducting biomedical research continues to increase. The School's FY17 operating budget exceeded $700 million. HMS is fortunate to have a strong endowment to support its operations, however, its annual income distributions support only approximately one-quarter of its budget. Donor preferences on how their endowed funds should be expended define what can be supported through the endowment. Private philanthropic support, such as this generous gift from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, is critical to Harvard Medical School’s work in service to the world.
What prompted this gift by the Blavatnik Family Foundation?
This is the most recent and largest in a long history of generous gifts from the Blavatnik Family Foundation to academic institutions—Columbia, Stanford, Tel Aviv University, University of Pennsylvania and Yale—in support of the life sciences. The foundation’s history of support at Harvard originated more than a decade ago with the 2007 establishment of the Biomedical Accelerator Fund. In 2013, a $50-million gift launched the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator at Harvard University and the Blavatnik Fellowship in Life Science Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. The foundation is best known for its Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, which supports noteworthy young scientists and engineers.
We are deeply grateful that the Blavatnik Family Foundation has chosen to make this landmark gift to Harvard. We believe passionately that it will bring us closer to solving the most intractable health challenges of our time.