Bil­lion­aire gifts Har­vard a his­toric $200M to 'ex­pe­dite' trans­la­tion­al bio­med­ical re­search work

The soil at Har­vard’s biotech fields just got rich­er, thanks to a $200 mil­lion gift from bil­lion­aire Len Blavat­nik’s fam­i­ly foun­da­tion.

“The over­ar­ch­ing goal of the gift is to ac­cel­er­ate the pace of ther­a­peu­tic dis­cov­ery by short­en­ing the tra­jec­to­ry be­tween ba­sic dis­cov­ery and trans­for­ma­tion of in­sights in­to ther­a­pies,” Har­vard Med­ical School wrote of the pledge, which is the largest in its 236-year his­to­ry.

“In­suf­fi­cient fund­ing for ther­a­peu­tic dis­cov­ery, in­ad­e­quate sup­port for en­abling tech­nolo­gies and a cul­tur­al di­vide be­tween aca­d­e­m­ic and in­dus­try sci­en­tists,” the rea­son­ing goes, are some of the cur­rent bar­ri­ers to trans­lat­ing dis­cov­ery in­to ther­a­pies. This gift aims to break them down one by one.

Len Blavat­nik

One of the most vis­i­ble steps will be the launch of the Blavat­nik Har­vard Life Lab Long­wood, to be lo­cat­ed on the Har­vard Med­ical School cam­pus and mod­eled up­on the Pagli­u­ca Har­vard Life Lab, which has housed biotech star­tups like Ak­ou­os, An­tara Ther­a­peu­tics and Blue Ther­a­peu­tics. The in­cu­ba­tor will of­fer re­sources for busi­ness build­ing as well as ex­pert ad­vis­ers to any Har­vard stu­dents, re­searchers and fac­ul­ty in­ter­est­ed in launch­ing their own biotech and life sci­ences ven­tures.

This phys­i­cal space fol­lows a string of Blavat­nik ini­tia­tives to fos­ter en­tre­pre­neur­ship at Har­vard, from the Bio­med­ical Ac­cel­er­a­tor Fund in 2007, to the Blavat­nik Bio­med­ical Ac­cel­er­a­tor and the Blavat­nik Fel­low­ship in Life Sci­ence En­tre­pre­neur­ship cre­at­ed with a $50 mil­lion gift in 2013.

The mon­ey will al­so go to­ward tal­ent re­cruit­ment — specif­i­cal­ly ex­perts who can “har­ness new da­ta-rich tech­nolo­gies to ad­vance bi­o­log­i­cal re­search.”

In con­junc­tion with its ef­fort to bring in bio­engi­neers, physi­cists, quan­ti­ta­tive an­a­lysts and com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gist, the school is cre­at­ing a da­ta sci­ence core fa­cil­i­ty where life sci­ences re­searchers can put AI tools to work.

Re­searchers based on the Har­vard Med­ical School cam­pus will be spurred to work with sci­en­tists from Har­vard Med­ical School’s af­fil­i­at­ed teach­ing hos­pi­tals and re­search in­sti­tu­tions through a new col­lab­o­ra­tive-grants pro­gram. With­in the school, de­part­ments are al­so en­cour­aged to come to­geth­er un­der a new­ly named Blavat­nik In­sti­tute.

The tech­no­log­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture at Har­vard is al­so get­ting a boost from the new fund­ing, from mol­e­c­u­lar imag­ing and vi­su­al­iza­tion to sin­gle-cell se­quenc­ing and high-through­put screen­ing.

“It has long been my goal to sup­port in­no­v­a­tive, break­through sci­en­tif­ic re­search and to ex­pe­dite the trans­la­tion of sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­ery in­to treat­ments and cures,” Blavat­nik said in a state­ment. “Har­vard Med­ical School, with its un­par­al­leled his­to­ry of sci­en­tif­ic achieve­ment, cre­ativ­i­ty and sci­ence en­tre­pre­neur­ship, is the ide­al part­ner to fur­ther this dream.”

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The DCT-OS: A Tech­nol­o­gy-first Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem - En­abling Clin­i­cal Tri­als

As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

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Cynthia Butitta (L) and Joe Jimenez

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The FDA on Wednesday extended its four-year agreement with CN Bio, a developer of single- and multi-organ-on-chip systems used for drug discovery, for another three years.

CN Bio said the scope of the research performed by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has expanded to include the exploration of the company’s lung-on-a-chip system to help with the agency’s evaluation of inhaled drugs, in addition to the agency’s work on its liver model.

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Joe Wiley, Amryt CEO

A biotech with a yen for pricey rare dis­ease drugs — and bar­gain base­ment shop­ping — adopts an­oth­er or­phan in lat­est M&A pact

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director general of WTO (AP Photo/Keystone/Alessandro Della Bella)

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Thomas Schall, ChemoCentryx CEO (file photo)

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