BOSTON—Harvard Business School (HBS) has named its first class of Blavatnik Fellows in Life Science Entrepreneurship – five outstanding HBS alumni who graduated from the School no more than seven years ago who will work with inventors from Harvard University’s research laboratories to promote the commercialization of important life science-oriented technologies.
The Blavatnik Fellowship Program, which will admit from three to seven exceptional individuals each year through a competitive application process, was created last spring as part of a $50 million gift to Harvard University from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, headed by Len Blavatnik (MBA 1989), to launch a major initiative to expedite via the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator (which identifies and supports early stage, highly promising technologies) the development of basic science discoveries into transformative technologies in the life sciences, including therapies, vaccines, diagnostics, devices, and digital technologies in biomedicine.
The 2013-14 Blavatnik Fellows are Ross Leimberg (MBA 2012), Daniel Oliver (MBA 2013), Steven Porter, MD (MBA 2011), John Strenkowski (MBA 2009), and Ridhi Tariyal (MBA 2009). (For biographies, please see below.)
The Blavatnik Fellows Program is directed by Vicki Sato, PhD, former president of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and now professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and professor of the practice in Harvard University’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. “Harvard Business School has a long history of educating leaders who make a difference in organizations around the world,” she said. “The Blavatnik Family Foundation’s establishment of this fellowship enables an extraordinary group of Harvard MBA graduates to nurture new technological innovations and take on leadership roles in new ventures specializing in research and development in the life sciences.”
Blavatnik Fellows receive a $95,000 stipend for a twelve-month period, as well as additional funding for activities such as due diligence, market research, licensing options, and other relevant tasks necessary for working with inventors and Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development to determine the best route for the commercialization of a product.
Based in the Harvard University Innovation Lab (i-lab), a center of entrepreneurial activity from across the University, Blavatnik Fellows will have opportunities to become part of the HBS and University communities. Formal and informal components of the program will provide education and interaction in a wide variety of areas, including strategy, R&D management, intellectual property, regulatory affairs, business development, and entrepreneurial financing. Fellows will be encouraged to complete business plans and secure funding and where appropriate, to join and develop founding teams of new ventures.
In addition, Blavatnik Fellows will have access to leaders in Boston’s business, biomedical, and life science communities, including executives, entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, and attorneys, who are willing to serve as mentors during the fellowship year. They are also being paired with individuals from this group who have the time and interest to partner more closely and meet with them regularly to monitor and help with their projects.
“We are delighted to welcome the first Blavatnik Fellows to Harvard Business School,” said Dean Nitin Nohria. “Harvard is situated in the midst of the world’s top talent in biomedical and other sciences. These Fellows will help turn innovative ideas into new ventures that will have a significant impact on the well-being of people in Boston and around the globe. We are pleased to see them take on key roles in this important sector, which depends on the merging of both breakthrough scientific ideas and great business leadership.”
The 2013-14 Blavatnik Fellows are:
- Ross Leimberg (MBA 2012), who draws from a variety of business development, investing, and consulting experiences from the life sciences industry. As an associate at Locust Walk Partners, he advised leading biopharma and business development professionals on the execution of high-value transactions across multiple therapeutic areas and development stages. At SR One, the venture capital subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline, he led diligence for select investment opportunities and screened more than 100 early stage biotechnology companies. Before that, he worked in Pfizer’s business development group, where he actively managed dozens of merger and acquisition and licensing deals. He concurrently worked in the company’s commercial planning group, where he led the overhaul of short- and long-term disease area strategies and product forecasts. He began his career as a consultant at ZS Associates. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School and a bachelor’s in applied science (bioengineering) from the University of Pennsylvania.
- Daniel Oliver (MBA 2013), who is a former systems engineer with Honeywell Aerospace and founder of Intelligent Mobility International, a social entrepreneurship enterprise he established to provide long-lasting, low-cost wheelchairs throughout the world. His experience in product development and launching new ventures also includes working with a software startup and helping to bring the world’s most efficient solar cell to market. He is a graduate of the California Institute of Technology, with bachelor’s degrees in both mechanical engineering and business.
- Steven Porter (MBA 2011), who is a Princeton graduate with an MD degree from Harvard Medical School. He has conducted extensive clinical, public health, and management work in South Africa over the past decade. His career combining medicine and business began when he worked as a Princeton-in-Africa Fellow with mothers2mothers, a Cape Town-based nonprofit organization providing peer-based psychosocial support services to pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV/AIDS. His clinical work in South Africa has included a combined family medicine and infectious disease rotation at a rural government hospital in the Eastern Cape Province. Most recently, he worked as a management consultant in the Johannesburg office of Bain & Company, where he focused on the mining, retail, and nonprofit sectors. He plans to pursue further clinical training in obstetrics and gynecology.
- John Strenkowski (MBA 2009), who began his career at Johnson & Johnson, where he worked in medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products, taking on marketing, brand management, sales, and new product development roles. After gaining experience with several venture capital firms, he joined the commercialization team at TransEnterix, a medical device startup company. Selected as the first Innovation Fellow at his undergraduate alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he identified within the university a promising medical diagnostic technology that he licensed to Novametrics, a company he cofounded and led as CEO and for which he raised funds for product development. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at UNC.
- Ridhi Tariyal (MBA 2009), who worked most recently at the Broad Institute, where she led an international genomics operation. The majority of her career has focused on commercializing innovations in science, medicine, and technology, with the goal of improving outcomes in healthcare. In the past few years, her areas of interest and expertise have centered on genetics in emerging markets, particularly in India and Africa, and on diagnostics that can have an impact on women’s health and fertility. With a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, she also earned a master’s degree in biomedical enterprise from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.