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Press Release

Four Yale faculty members take home top awards at Yale Lifesciences PitchFest 2020

Yale Lifesciences PitchFest 2020.png

Yale Lifesciences Pitchfest 2020, presented by the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale, took place on Thursday, December 3 and Friday, December 4. The top 22 biotech opportunities developing within Yale took the virtual stage to present their five-minute pitches to a panel of ten senior executives from biotech investment funds and pharmaceutical companies. An online audience of approximately 300 attendees from over 150 companies and investment firms participated over two days.

In addition to advancing as Blavatnik Fund semifinalists, the presenting investigators competed for $5,000 in prizes after both days’ votes were tabulated.

Four faculty members took home the top cash prize awards in various categories:

  • Best Presentation: Choukri Ben-Mamoun, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and of Microbial Pathogenesis, for Virtus Therapeutics: A Novel Therapy for Pantothenate Kinase-Associated Neurodegeneration
  • Highest Potential Impact: Joseph N. Contessa, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Vice Chair, Therapeutic Radiology, for Apira: Developing Therapeutic OST inhibitors
  • Most Innovative Breakthrough: Ranjit Bindra, M.D., Ph.D. and W. Mark Saltzman, Ph.D., Professors, of Therapeutic Radiology for BrainStorm Cancer Therapeutics: Redefining the blood-brain barrier
  • Most Valuable Pitch: Anjelica Gonzalez, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, for Aero Therapeutics: Preclinical Validation of a Low-cost Versatile Respirator

A viewers’ choice award was given at the close of each day as well. On Thursday, Anjelica Gonzalez, Ph.D. was the recipient, and on Friday Ranjit Bindra, M.D., Ph.D. was selected.

“While certainly different this year, the quality of the presentations and the caliber of industry attendees was top notch. It is this exact sort of interaction that was the vision of Len Blavatnik and the Blavatnik Family Foundation whose generous grant to Yale has fueled an acceleration of translational research and entrepreneurial effort in Yale labs,” said Bill Wiesler, Director of New Ventures and of The Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale, Office of Cooperative Research. “Congratulations to our deserving winners. I look forward to following and supporting the progress of each project from PitchFest 2020.”

Shipman & Goodwin, the event’s lead sponsor for the last three years, was joined by sponsors Genesis Drug Discovery & Development (GD3), GenScript, GenScript PROBIO, and Piramal Pharma Solutions, all of whom have been valuable partners to projects that have received awards from the Blavatnik Fund.

“As a result of awards from the Blavatnik Fund, coupled with the ongoing support of our corporate partners, we have been able to accelerate the launch of a number of Yale startups in our community,” said Jon Soderstrom, Managing Director, Yale Venture. “This is tangible evidence of our support of economic development in the New Haven area.”

About the Yale Venture:

Since its founding in 1982, the Yale Venture (OCR) has built a significant portfolio of inventions and patents and has grown into an engine of regional economic development. Its mission is to facilitate the translation of research from Yale’s labs into products and services that benefit society. OCR is recognized as a leading force for catalyzing economic growth by identifying, counseling and nurturing early-stage technologies and guiding the transition into robust companies. More information is available at

About the Blavatnik Family Foundation:

The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of world-renowned educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia and throughout the world. The Foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, a global industrialist and philanthropist and the founder and chairman of Access Industries, a privately held industrial group based in the U.S. with global strategic interests. See more at