Harvard Gets $10M Donation

Blavatnik Family Foundation donates to life sciences research at Harvard

Harvard announced last week that it would receive $10 million to support research and technology development in the life sciences from a foundation headed by a Harvard Business School alum.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation, run by billionaire Business School graduate Leonard Blavatnik, designated $5 million of the gift to fund the Harvard University Technology Development Accelerator Fund,

This fund supports budding research on promising technologies.

The other half of the donation will support the work of Harvard Medical School assistant professors Catherine J. Wu and Nir Hacohen at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute, where the two research cancer vaccines.

Wu’s research, which focuses on leukemia, studies how the human immune system responds to signals presented by leukemia cells, while minimizing potentially harmful side-effects, she said.

The donation will provide support for her efforts to identify new classes of immunogens, signals that allow the immune system to recognize foreign matter in the body, Wu said. More immunogens could allow scientists to more specifically target leukemia.

Hacohen’s research focuses on determining how immune responses are triggered under different conditions, including infections and for autoimmune reactions, such as organ transplant rejection or rheumatoid arthritis.

“This collaboration with Dr. Wu combines some of my lab’s approaches with Dr. Wu’s lab’s scientific and clinical goals,” Hacohen said. “Together, we are trying to understand how to induce effective immunity against tumors.”

The other $5 million will support life sciences projects funded by the Accelerator Fund, which aims to speed scientific discoveries from the lab to the marketplace.

The Accelerator Fund, managed by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, provides money to move research on technologies with promising market and scientific value from early stages to the point where they can be invested in by pharmaceutical companies or industry.

“There is a funding gap at this point—researchers might discover what appears to be a really useful molecule, but it needs more work before getting to the point where a company would be ready to make an investment in it,” said Harvard science spokesman B. D. Colen. “What the accelerator fund is meant to do is to bridge that gap.”

—Staff Writer Alissa M. D’Gama can be reached adgama@fas.harvard.edu