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Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering

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Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
Logo of the Wyss Institute
Established 2009 (2009)
Director Donald E. Ingber

The Wyss[1] Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering is a cross-disciplinary research institute at Harvard University which focuses on developing new bioinspired materials and devices for applications in healthcare, manufacturing, robotics, energy, and sustainable architecture. The Institute has two sites: one in the Center for Life Sciences Boston building in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area, and one on Harvard's main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Wyss Institute was launched in January 2009 with a $125 million gift to Harvard—the largest single philanthropic gift in its history—from Hansjörg Wyss.[2]

The Institute works as an alliance among


The Wyss Institute’s scientific operations are organized around six Enabling Technology Platforms that focus on development of new core technologies and capabilities that will facilitate the explosion of major R&D areas in the field of bioinspired engineering. The platforms integrate multiple faculty members with the advanced technology team, clinical experts, and industrial partners. The Institute platforms are:

  • Adaptive Material Technologies: Integrated multiscale structures composed of biomimetic materials and devices that dynamically adapt to their environments for energy and environmental applications, such as construction materials that harness energy, heat, and water
  • Anticipatory Medical Devices: Developing wireless medical devices that transmit rebooting signals to prevent serious medical issues, such as apnea in premature infants and falls due to gait problems among the elderly
  • Bioinspired Robotics: Developing computer algorithms and sensor/actuator materials that enable robots to act collectively in response to changes in their environment, such as swarms of flying insect robots to assist dwindling bee populations
  • Synthetic Biology: Creating massively parallel capabilities for directed evolution of biomolecules and whole genomes for applications in cell reprogramming, drug delivery, regenerative medicine, and bioenergy
  • Biomimetic Microsystems: Engineering microsystem technologies that reconstitute complex human organ-level functions for use in drug testing, diagnostic and therapeutic applications
  • Programmable Nanomaterials: Creation of targetable, self-assembling nanotechnologies for regenerative medicine and drug delivery applications


Wyss Institute faculty members hold appointments at Harvard University or at a partner institution. The Core Faculty members are:

  • Donald E. Ingber has made major contributions to cell and tissue engineering, angiogenesis, cancer research, systems biology, and nanobiotechnology. He is Founding Director of the Wyss Institute,[3] a Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, and a Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He was recently given a grant for a dialysis-like therapy, a sort of miniature "spleen-on-a-chip", that could more effectively treat sepsis, on and off the battlefield.[4]
  • Joanna Aizenberg pursues research interests that include biomineralization, biomimetics, self-assembly, bio-inspired materials synthesis, biomaterials, biomechanics, and bio-optics. She is the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Material Sciences at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard, and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.
  • genomic and proteomic measurement, and synthesis and modeling of biomedical and ecological systems—specifically, personal genomics and biofuels. He is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, a Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Director of NIH- and DOE-funded Human Genomics and Bioenergy Technology Centers.
  • James J. Collins is a founder of the field of synthetic biology and a pioneering researcher in systems biology, stochastic resonance, biological dynamics, and neurostimulation. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a William F. Warren Distinguished Professor, University Professor, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Medicine, and Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Center for BioDynamics at Boston University.
  • David A. Edwards is a biomedical engineer who develops innovative new ideas by fusing scientific and artistic discoveries. He is a Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  • Ary Goldberger is a heart researcher who focuses on the loss of signal complexity that accompanies aging, frailty, and a wide range of diseases. He directs the Margret & H. A. Rey Institute for Nonlinear Dynamics in Medicine and is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also the Program Director of the NIH-sponsored Research Resource for Complex Physiologic Signals.
  • Neel Joshi is developing new methods for controlling the spatial and temporal arrangement of self-assembling systems. He is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Harvard.
  • L. Mahadevan is interested in the spatial and temporal dynamics of how matter is organized. He is the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, an Affiliate Professor in the department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and an Affiliate Professor in Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.
  • David J. Mooney is studying the mechanisms that enable cells to receive and react to chemical and mechanical signals, such as cell adhesion molecules and cyclic strains. He is the Gordon McKay Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard.
  • Radhika Nagpal is developing programming paradigms that allow individual agents to work together to achieve complex behavior. She is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  • Kevin Kit Parker researches cardiac cell biology and tissue engineering, traumatic brain injury, and biological applications of micro- and nanotechnologies. He is the Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Applied Science and an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard.
  • William Shih explores synthetic biology approaches to the development of self-assembling DNA structures and devices for biomedical applications. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and at the Department of Cancer Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
  • Pamela Silver conducts research into the logical engineering of biology and the use of genomics, genetics, and cell-based screens in the study of diseases and drug action. She is a Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Harvard University Ph.D. Program in Systems Biology.
  • biophysics, complexity, surface science, microfluidics, self-assembly, micro- and nanotechnology, science for developing economies, origin of life, and cell-surface biochemistry. He is the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard.
  • Robert Wood is developing biologically inspired aerial and ambulatory microrobots, soft-bodied robots, and programmable matter. He is an Assistant Professor in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
  • Peng Yin is engineering programmable molecular systems inspired by biology. His research focuses on engineering information-directed self-assembly of nucleic acid (DNA/RNA) structures and devices to do useful molecular work. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. He has led research into a form of super-resolution (nanoscale) microscopy known as DNA-PAINT, and an improved version known as Exchange-PAINT.[5]
  • Conor Walsh is developing smart medical devices for diagnostic, therapeutic, and assistive applications, such as a tool to more accurately and safely drill into bone.

The Wyss Institute Associate Faculty members are:

  • Elliot L. Chaikof, is Chairman of the Roberta and Stephen R. Weiner Department of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He has helped advance cell-based therapies, artificial organs, and engineered tissues.
  • Eugene Goldfield, is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Behavioral Sciences at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. He leads a Wyss project to develop an intelligent flexible orthotic for children with cerebral palsy.
  • Ali Khademhosseini, is an Associate Professor at Harvard-MIT's Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. He is developing methods for generating tissue-like structures.
  • David Paydarfar, is Professor of Neurology and Physiology and Vice Chair for Clinical Operations and Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is developing methods to prevent infant apnea.
  • David A. Weitz, is the Mallingkrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. His research efforts include soft matter physics, biophysics, and biotechnology.
  • Wesley P. Wong, is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School in the Departments of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology and Pediatrics. He is working to understand the physical basis behind how biological systems work at the nanoscale.

In addition, the Wyss Institute's Advanced Technology Team consists of scientists and engineers with experience in biomaterial fabrication, device development, industry, design engineering, and system integration. They help guide material and device development, mentor staff and students in technology translation and intellectual property areas, and provide institutional memory. They ensure that Institute members translate their technologies into commercial products and therapies through partnerships with industrial and clinical collaborators.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Pronounced "veese".
  2. ^ "Hansjorg Wyss gives $125 million to create institute for biologically inspired engineering". Harvard University. October 6, 2008. 
  3. ^ Piesing, Mark (August 23, 2014). "How tech could spell the end of animals in drugs testing".  
  4. ^
  5. ^

See also

External links

  • Official website of the Wyss Institute
  • Public radio interview with Don Ingber, founding director of the Wyss Institute

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