Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator


From innovation to impact

The Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator bridges the gap between innovative, early-stage life science research and successful development of high-impact biomedical products. Our integrated approach combines essential funding with development and business expertise, leading to commercial partnerships that bring forth new biomedical discoveries that create value and benefit society.

Read about the new research projects supported in 2017.

By helping translate the inventions that happen here at Harvard into projects and businesses with real-world impact, the Accelerator can provide a unique and powerful spur to collaboration and innovation – both of which are crucial to solving society's most difficult challenges.

Nitin Nohria

Dean, Harvard Business School

New projects in 2017

In labs across Harvard University, 13 innovative research projects received new support from the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator in 2017. Our investigators are advancing crucial translational work in the areas of cancer immunology, regenerative medicine, neuroscience, infectious disease, and reproductive medicine — and are driving rapidly toward commercial partnership.

Cancer Immunology

Specifically Targeting Subsets of T Regulatory Cells for Tumor Immunotherapy

Christophe Benoist
Morton Grove-Rasmussen Professor of Immunohematology, Harvard Medical School

Diane Mathis
Morton Grove-Rasmussen Professor of Immunohematology, Harvard Medical School

Using genomic and computational methods, Drs. Benoist and Mathis identified molecules that are specifically overexpressed in tumor-associated regulatory T cells, and they are exploring how manipulation of these molecules can enhance cancer therapy.

Targeting Endothelial Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy

Ulrich von Andrian
Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Professor of Immunopathology and Director of the Center for Immune Imaging, Harvard Medical School

Dr. von Andrian’s group has identified specific characteristics of tumor vasculature that inhibit the entry of T cells, potentially explaining the resistance of these tumors to current immuno-oncology therapies.  The Accelerator is funding work directed toward inducing changes in tumor vasculature to allow T cell entry and enhancement of anti-tumor responses.

Regenerative Medicine

New Methods to Differentiate Human Stem Cells

George Church
Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

The Church lab has developed a method that differentiates human stem cells into a wide variety of cell types with 80% efficiency in less than a week. With Accelerator support, they seek to confirm the identity and in vivo functionality of multiple cell types obtained by this method, with the goal of developing regenerative therapies for neurological and other diseases.

Validation of More-efficient Methods to Differentiate Human Stem Cells

Marc Kirschner
John Franklin Enders University Professor of Systems Biology and Head of the Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School

The Kirschner lab has developed a stem cell differentiation platform that generates more mature neurons much more rapidly (in days instead of months) than conventional approaches. With Accelerator funding, they will determine whether this method also confers a reduced risk of tumorigenesis.

In vitro Production of Satellite Cells for Cell Therapy and Drug Discovery

Lee Rubin
Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School; Director of the Therapeutic Screening Center and Director of Translational Medicine for the Harvard Stem Cell Institute

Satellite cells can robustly repair damaged skeletal muscle, but clinically relevant quantities of functional satellite cells have never been obtained in vitro. Using specialized conditions and small-molecule enhancers, the Rubin lab can produce large quantities of satellite-like cells, and they will test the capability of these cells to regenerate muscle in mouse models.

Programmable Biomaterials to Reconstitute Immunity in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

David Scadden
Gerald and Darlene Jordan Professor of Medicine, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, and Chair of the Department of Stem Cell & Regenerative Biology, Harvard Medical School and Faculty of Arts and Sciences

David Mooney
Robert P. Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Stem cell transplantation is a proven cure for multiple disorders, including cancer and HIV, but it is rarely used because it may cause life-threatening immune-related complications. The Scadden and Mooney labs are applying their expertise in stem cell biology and biomaterials engineering to develop an implant that will accelerate immune reconstitution in transplant patients while preventing graft-versus-host disease, supporting in this way a wider adoption of stem cell transplantation.


Homeostatic Brain Cooling to Treat Disorders of Excitability

Adam Cohen
Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Cohen is developing an implantable medical device to safely cool specific areas of the brain as a treatment for epilepsy and other neurological diseases.

Spinal Cord Projection Neuron Subtypes as Novel Targets for Treating Pain

David Ginty
Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

The Ginty lab recently discovered a novel neural pathway for pain and is conducting proof-of-concept experiments to determine whether this pathway can be targeted for the treatment of pain.

Infectious Disease

Developing a Biological Inhibitor of Swarming by the Pathogen Proteus mirabilis

Karine Gibbs
Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Gibbs has identified a molecule that inhibits motility in the bacterium Proteus mirabilis, and she is exploring the use of this molecule to prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

High-throughput Screening to Identify Inhibitors of Zika Virus

Priscilla Yang
Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Yang is leveraging her expertise in chemical biology to identify novel inhibitors of flaviviruses, with particular interest in molecules that can inhibit the entry of both Zika and dengue viruses into host cells.

Development of a Rationally Designed Live Attenuated Vaccine against Zika Virus

Ying-Kai Chan
Research Associate in Genetics, Harvard Medical School

Based on his insight into flaviviral immune evasion mechanisms, Dr. Chan has engineered specific mutations in West Nile, dengue, and Zika viruses to generate live, attenuated vaccine candidates. The goal of his Accelerator-funded project is to demonstrate protective efficacy of his Zika vaccine candidate in mouse models of Zika infection.

A High-throughput Platform for Engineering Therapeutic Lactic Acid Bacteria

George Church
Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

The Church lab is engineering probiotic species of lactobacilli to express therapeutic antibodies, with plans to develop therapeutic and prophylactic applications for inflammatory and infectious disease.

Reproductive Medicine

Towards Transient RNA-based Therapeutics for Male Infertility

John Rinn
Visiting Scholar in Stem Cell & Regenerative Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Rinn has identified a non-coding RNA that is required for male fertility in mice and that is implicated in human male infertility. His Accelerator-funded project seeks to validate this molecule’s therapeutic potential by demonstrating that transient exposure to this RNA can rescue fertility defects in mice.