Blavatnik Family Foundation Provides $10 Million to Promote Engineering Innovations in Health

Len Blavatnik, head of The Blavatnik Family Foundation.
—Photo Credit: Timothy Lee Photographers

Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science has announced a $10 million grant from the Blavatnik Family Foundation to fund innovative research at the intersection of engineering and health and to expedite the development, application, and commercialization of breakthrough discoveries. The Blavatnik Family Foundation is headed by American industrialist and philanthropist Len Blavatnik, the founder of Access Industries, a privately held global, diversified industrial group, and an alumnus of Columbia Engineering, where he earned a master’s degree in computer science in 1991.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation’s gift to Columbia Engineering will support The Blavatnik Fund for Engineering Innovations in Health, which will invest in attracting graduate student talent, promote early-stage research across disciplines, and accelerate the translation of research from the laboratory to where it can be applied in the marketplace to improve people’s lives.   

“We are deeply grateful for this transformative gift that will fund pioneering research for the next 10 years,” said Mary C. Boyce, dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. “With his generous gift, Len Blavatnik is furthering our vision of Engineering for a Healthy Humanity by supporting a research pipeline in health and medical research, from doctoral students just beginning their inquiries, to faculty at the crossroads of engineering and medicine, to funding the translation of their research from the laboratory to industry.”  

“My goal is to support research that is interdisciplinary and non-traditional, because that is where the truly revolutionary breakthroughs will come from,” said Mr. Blavatnik. “I am drawn to and intrigued by the work of smart, young scientists and engineers, as a way to leverage their enormous brain-power to improve health and life.”

The gift will support two major initiatives. The first, the Blavatnik Doctoral Fellows, is an elite cohort of graduate researchers. The second, The Blavatnik Fund for Engineering Innovations in Health, will provide annual seed funding for interdisciplinary and translational research projects. 

Blavatnik Doctoral Fellows

The Blavatnik Doctoral Fellows will support doctoral students early in their careers working at the junction where research in engineering and health merge. Over the next 10 years of the fund, up to 50 young researchers will benefit from the financial support and recognition of being named Blavatnik Fellows.

Blavatnik Acceleration Funds

The second initiative will provide funding to accelerate the transition of early stage ideas and later-stage research to the marketplace.  A primary focus of the funding is to foster interdisciplinary research at the critical early stage where many breakthrough ideas are found at the nexus of engineering and medicine. In addition to providing seed funding for researchers from different fields, the grant will support promising late-stage research, accelerating its translation to the market through licensing or start-up ventures.

“The Blavatnik Fund is an especially exciting one because it reflects Len Blavatnik’s own successful entrepreneurial career,” said Shih-Fu Chang, senior executive vice dean for Columbia Engineering. “His gift will not only launch the research careers of scores of young scholars, it will help assure that their work, and the work of senior faculty, will make the leap from the lab to the market, and to the broader society.”

About the Blavatnik Family Foundation

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of leading educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, Europe, and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, an American industrialist and philanthropist. Mr. Blavatnik is the founder and Chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held U.S. industrial group with global interests in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, technology, and real estate. For more detailed information, please visit: http://www.accessindustries.com.

About Columbia Engineering

Columbia Engineering, based in New York City, is one of the top engineering schools in the U.S. and one of the oldest in the nation. Also known as The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School expands knowledge and advances technology through the pioneering research of its more than 200 faculty, while educating undergraduate and graduate students in a collaborative environment to become leaders informed by a firm foundation in engineering.  The School’s faculty are at the center of the University’s cross-disciplinary research, contributing to the Data Science Institute, Earth Institute, Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Precision Medicine Initiative, and the Columbia Nano Initiative.  Guided by its strategic vision, “Columbia Engineering for Humanity,” the School aims to translate ideas into innovations that foster a sustainable, healthy, secure, connected, and creative humanity. 

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