One year after the Blavatnik Family Foundation announced a $200 million commitment to Harvard Medical School (HMS) — the largest gift in the School’s history — philanthropist Len Blavatnik returned to the HMS Quad on Oct. 16 to spend the day visiting with Quad scientists to learn more about research taking place on campus.
“We had several very interesting meetings today. I felt like I was attending master classes all day. It was very intellectually stimulating,” Blavatnik said during an informal conversation with Harvard Corporation member David Rubenstein at an early evening gathering for the Harvard and HMS communities.
“I already saw progress stemming from the gift,” Blavatnik told Rubenstein. Rubenstein is co-founder and co-executive chair of The Carlyle Group and a leader in the area of patriotic philanthropy.
One of the stops Blavatnik made while on the Quad was the School’s Cryo-Electron Microscopy Center for Structural Biology, where scientists are visualizing molecules at the atomic level — work that is contributing to a deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms in both normal and disease states. He also met with HMS scientists working on single-cell sequencing and the use of computational biology and biomedical informatics to predict disease and devise interventions. “I find an enormous satisfaction in supporting science and education … to see people striving for excellence. It gives me a lot of emotional satisfaction,” Blavatnik said.
Blavatnik’s support for HMS is intended to help accelerate the pace of therapeutic discovery and propel the School’s mission of transforming medicine through curiosity-driven research that stimulates the development of new therapies and tools to diagnose, prevent, and treat disease.
During their conversation, Blavatnik, a Harvard Business School (HBS) alumnus and the founder and chairman of Access Industries, an industrial group with global investments in natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, venture capital, real estate, and biotechnology, told Rubenstein that his commitment to the Medical School was encouraged by HBS Dean Nitin Nohria. Blavatnik said support for HMS meshes nicely with his own desire to support initiatives that may lead to significant scientific breakthroughs and that HMS is ripe with the potential to do this.
In welcoming remarks, HMS Dean George Q. Daley described Greater Boston as one of the world’s most dynamic ecosystems for biomedical innovation, home to a number of world-class hospitals and research institutions, more than 500 biotech firms, and 17 of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies.
“Harvard Medical School is the epicenter of this incredible ecosystem,” Daley said.
Blavatnik and his foundation support a number of educational, cultural, and charitable institutions around the world, including the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford, Tel Aviv University, Carnegie Hall, and Tate. The foundation also funds the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, which honor the achievements of exceptional young scientists and engineers in the U.S., U.K., and Israel.