The College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington announced today a gift of over $4.46 million from alumnus Lawrence M. Blatt, a pioneering virologist and the founder of Alios BioPharma Inc.
Blatt’s gift will provide funding for an array of new and ongoing endowments in the College of Arts and Sciences. Among them, $2 million will endow a virology chair in the Department of Biology, $500,000 will establish the Lawrence M. Blatt Biotechnology Internship Fund and another $500,000 will go toward the Department of Biology’s Milton Taylor Fellowship, a student-centered fund initially created by Blatt in 2000 and named in honor of his mentor, Professor Emeritus Milton Taylor.
“Larry Blatt is a remarkable example of a College alumnus who’s given back to his alma mater in a way that will have ripple effects through our faculty, students and research programs,” said Larry D. Singell, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His generosity is allowing us to do so many things in the sciences, including attracting top faculty members and graduate students.”
Blatt, who received a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from IU in 1983, has spent the past 30 years working in drug research and development. Most recently, he founded and served as CEO of Alios BioPharma Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that developed therapeutics for a range of viral infections.
Among other therapies, Blatt’s research led to the development of an antiviral therapy for the respiratory syncytial virus, a potentially fatal disease affecting infants. This past November, Johnson & Johnson purchased Alios for $1.75 billion in cash.
“Dr. Blatt is an expert in molecular and cellular biology and virology, but he’s also very knowledgeable about the process of guiding drug development into products,” said Cheng Kao, a professor in the IU Bloomington Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry Department. “It’s a very unusual skill set for a scientist to have.”
That expertise in drug development and business, Kao explains, is one reason why Blatt’s gift focuses so pointedly on creating professional opportunities for IU students.
In addition to creating a Biotechnology Internship Fund and bolstering the Department of Biology’s fellowship opportunities, Blatt’s gift will create the Lawrence M. Blatt Fund for Translational Research in the Sciences. The gift will also provide $1 million to establish the Lawrence M. Blatt Science Entrepreneurship Fund through the Kelley School of Business’ Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a fund that will support science students’ participation in entrepreneurial conferences and seminars.
“Viral infections continue to be a significant public health concern throughout the world and, in many cases, treatment options are either suboptimal or nonexistent,” said Blatt, who holds a doctorate in public health administration from the University of La Verne in California. “Training of the next generation of virologists is key to the continued fight against emerging and existing viral infections.”
Blatt added, “It is my hope that the funding provided can continue the strong tradition of leadership at Indiana University in the areas of microbiology, virology and biochemistry and that future work will lead to treatments and potential cures for these devastating diseases.”
Kao shares Blatt’s optimism for the impact that this gift will have on the sciences and the university itself.
“It’s incredible to see one of our alumni exert such a positive influence on the university and create so many opportunities for students and for the campus as a whole,” Kao said.