June 17, 2015: The Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) has significantly expanded resources for faculty entrepreneurs and has recently created a group called the Faculty Entrepreneur Mentors to provide specific guidance to faculty new to the entrepreneurship process.

“Faculty face a unique set of challenges as they begin the process of launching companies—from navigating conflict of interest and patenting issues to setting up boards,” says Erika Smith, Deputy Director of YEI. “We’ve reached out to faculty who have been through our programs and faced these issues and will be able to offer invaluable advice to those who are just beginning to think about starting companies.”

The YEI Faculty Entrepreneur Mentors include Yale professors and entrepreneurs Craig Crews, Laura Niklason, Kurt Roberts and Lynn Fiellin.

Crews, the Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology is also the founder and Chief Scientific Advisor of Arvinas which recently entered into a $434M partnership with Merck for its protein-degradation technology. Crews’ previous venture Proteolix, which developed the drug Kyprolis™ for treating multiple myeloma, was sold in 2009 for $851 million.

Niklason is a Professor of Anesthesiology & Biomedical Engineering and the Chair of the Yale Committee on Cooperative Research as well as the founder of Humacyte, which is engineering tissue for regenerative medicine and vascular surgery.

“When considering a startup or licensing new intellectual property, none of us know what we don’t know,” Niklason says. “Truly, without guidance from folks who have been through the process before, each of us re-invents our own wheel.  Not only is this time-consuming and frustrating, but it even leads to some entrepreneurs to give up entirely. Having an experienced hand to guide you through various steps can be enormously helpful and can be a material contributor to ultimate success.”

In addition to Crews and Niklason, the YEI Faculty Mentors will include Roberts, Associate Professor of Surgery at Yale and the founder of surgical device company NovaTract and Fiellin, Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale and the founder of KnackTime Interactive which is developing video games to combat risky behaviors in young people. Fiellin developed her venture during a 2014 YEI Fellowship and has taken an active role in developing the Yale-curated Kickstarter page.

“As Yale faculty, we are very knowledgeable about the academic areas in which we practice and teach, but as many of us move into the realm of entrepreneurship, it is completely uncharted territory,” says Fiellin. “Access to mentors who have first-hand experience with the different steps in the process is invaluable, reduces the pain of the steep learning curve, and likely optimizes success in overcoming the initial hurdles.”

Brita Belli

Brita Belli is the Communications Officer for the Office of Cooperative Research and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Prior to joining OCR, Brita was an editor and freelance writer whose work has appeared on the websites of the New York Times, National Geographic, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Health News,,, as well as in many print publications. She is the author of The Autism Puzzle: Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Toxins and Rising Autism Rates (Seven Stories Press).

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