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News from the Wyss Institute

 Lead Stories | In the Pipeline | Out and About | Media Coverage | Awards | Community

June 2013

Founding donor doubles gift

2nd gift

An exciting surprise awaited the Wyss Institute community members who gathered to celebrate five years of Institute work in innovation, collaboration, and technology translation. Harvard University President Drew Faust announced that the Institute's founding donor, Hansjörg Wyss, doubled his initial gift of $125 million to $250 million. The new gift will help ensure the Institute's momentum as it pioneers the field of biologically inspired engineering and develops solutions to some of the world's greatest medical and environmental challenges. More...


Printing tiny batteries

Micro battery

A team led by Core Faculty member Jennifer Lewis, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was the first to use a 3D printer to make batteries, as reported in Advanced Materials and covered by news sites around the world. The lithium-ion microbatteries, each the size of a grain of sand, could be used to power tiny medical, robotic, and communications devices. More...


A Fantastic Voyage

Wyss symposium

The Institute's fourth annual symposium covered the latest bioinspired nanotherapeutics and diagnostics, and drew an energetic crowd of 400 clinicians, industry leaders, faculty, and students from 15 countries. The all-day event featured interactive presentations on targeted drug delivery, self-assembling nanomaterials, regenerative medicine and the challenges of translating such technologies to the commercial space. Presenters included Core Faculty members George Church, Don Ingber, Dave Mooney and Peng Yin; Noubar Afeyan (Flagship Ventures); Sangeeta Bhatia (MIT), Justin Hanes (Johns Hopkins University), and Samir Mitragotri (University of California, Santa Barbara).


RoboBee takes flight


Researchers led by Core Faculty member Rob Wood demonstrated the first controlled flight of the RoboBee, surmounting a decade of engineering challenges they encountered in designing such a small, sophisticated robot. The RoboBee weighs less than one-tenth of a gram and may one day assist in search-and-rescue missions. The landmark achievement, which was reported in Science, underscores the team's progress in unearthing an entire new landscape of meso-scale engineering capability. More...


April 2013

DARPA green-lights sepsis device

Sepsis therapeutic device

The Wyss Institute was awarded a $9.25 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further advance its blood-cleansing technology and help accelerate its translation to humans as a new type of sepsis therapy. More...





Tracks of your tears

Tunable material

Inspired by human tears, a team at the Wyss Institute and Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) led by Wyss Core Faculty member Joanna Aizenberg has designed a new kind of adaptive material with tunable transparency and wettability features. Reported in Nature Materials, the new technology could have many applications, such as textiles that block light on a sunny day and repel water on a rainy day, or pipelines that optimize the rate of flow depending on environmental conditions and the fluid volume passing through them. More...


The Wyss Institute model in action


A new collaboration between the Institute and Sony DADC will harness Sony DADC's global manufacturing expertise to further advance the Institute's Organs-on-Chips technologies. This is another example of the Wyss Institute collaborating with industry to help de-risk Institute technologies, both technically and commercially, and expedite their translation into real world applications. More...


Institute shines in Discover magazine

Discover article

The Wyss Institute was featured in a six-page spread in the April issue of Discover magazine. "What most distinguishes the Wyss is that its scientists treat the natural world as their inspirational springboard," writes reporter Gregory Mone, who visited the Institute last year.
Download article... [10 MB]



February 2013

Tracing a circle: More science than art


Doctors routinely track hand-eye coordination to monitor any neuromuscular deficits as their patients age or if they are injured -- but the tests are subjective and qualitative. Perhaps not for long, as Wyss Institute researchers and colleagues from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Hebrew SeniorLife, Boston, completed an exciting first clinical study for a new tracing tool that quantitatively tracks neuromuscular performance, as reported in the Journal of Gerontology: Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. More...


Game on in war against bacterial superbugs

E. coli

A team of Wyss Institute and Boston University scientists led by Core Faculty member Jim Collins just won a battle in the war against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They used computer modeling and biotechnology to disturb the metabolism of E. coli, rendering them weaker in the face of existing antibiotics, as reported in Nature Biotechnology. More...


First Hansjörg Wyss-endowed chair

Jennifer Lewis

Jennifer A. Lewis, an internationally recognized leader in 3D printing and biomimetic materials, has been appointed as the first Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute. Lewis is the first senior faculty to occupy a Wyss-endowed professorial chair. More...


The adventure continues...

Retreat video

Enjoy this celebratory new video capturing the energy and excitement of the Institute’s 2012 annual retreat. The retreat, held in Boston, attracted a record-breaking audience of nearly 500 faculty, fellows, students, research and engineering staff, clinicians, and industrial collaborators. Watch video...



December 2012

Building with DNA "bricks"

DNA bricks

A research team led by Wyss Core Faculty member Peng Yin and Wyss Postdoctoral Fellow Yonggang Ke created more than 100 three-dimensional nanostructures using DNA building blocks that function like Lego® bricks. This major advance from the two-dimensional structures they built a few months ago is the next step toward using DNA for more sophisticated applications than ever possible before. The new method was the cover article in Science. More...


SLIPS technology in a pipeline


Wyss Core Faculty member Joanna Aizenberg and team were awarded an ARPA-E grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to leverage the SLIPS technology to create self-repairing coatings for the inside surfaces of oil and water pipes, reducing friction and resulting in energy savings of up to 50%. The prestigious award is part of a $130-million funding effort by ARPA-E to support innovative energy technologies. More...


Human disease modeled in an organ-on-a-chip

Pulmonary edema on a chip

A cross-disciplinary team led by Wyss Technology Development Fellow Dongeun Huh and Wyss Founding Director Don Ingber have mimicked pulmonary edema in a microchip lined by living human cells. The study, reported in Science Translational Medicine, offers further proof-of-concept that human "organs-on-chips" hold tremendous potential to replace traditional approaches to drug discovery and development. More...


September 2012

Building a "human-on-a-chip"

Gut on a chip

In the Wyss Institute's largest sponsored project to date, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is providing up to $37 million in funding for the development of an automated "human-on-a-chip." The instrument will integrate 10 human organs-on-chips, including a lung, heart, and gut (shown here), to enable study of complex human physiology. Wyss Founding Director Don Ingber and Core Faculty member Kit Parker will lead the project. More...



Writing the book in DNA


Although George Church's book does not get published in print for a few more weeks, it has already passed an enviable benchmark: 70 billion copies -- roughly triple the sum of the top 100 books of all time. And all of these copies can fit on your thumbnail. That's because Church, a Core Faculty member of the Wyss Institute, and Wyss Staff Scientist Sriram Kosuri encoded in DNA the new book, Regenesis, which they then decoded and copied. More...


June 2012

DNA "building blocks" that work like LEGO® bricks

DNA building blocks

A research team led by Core Faculty Member Peng Yin has developed a new way to build complex nanostructures, such as letters and emoticons, out of interlocking DNA "building blocks." Further development of the technology could lead to the creation of nanoscale devices that deliver drugs directly to disease sites. The findings were published in Nature. More...



Noise & rhythm

Wyss Symposium

Leading scientists, clinicians, and academic experts gathered at the third annual Wyss symposium on June 8 to consider the opportunities and challenges presented by new technologies based on the complex systems and behaviors found in nature. Noise & Rhythm: Harnessing Complexity in Medicine and Robotics drew more than 400 people from as far away as China and Poland to the Longwood Medical Area in Boston. More...


A new spin on antifreeze


A new technological advance from a team led by Core Faculty Member Joanna Aizenberg could keep any metal surface free of ice and frost. The discovery, published online in ACS Nano, has direct implications for a wide variety of metal surfaces, such as those used in refrigeration systems, wind turbines, aircraft, marine vessels, and the construction industry. Other Wyss Institute members on the research team were Technology Development Fellow Philseok Kim, Postdoctoral Fellow Tak-Sing Wong, Research Assistant Jack Alvarenga, and Michael Kreder, a visiting undergraduate research intern. More...


When Nature calls: The Wyss wins the Webby

Webby Award winner

Last month the Wyss received one of the Internet's highest honors -- a Webby award -- at a gala event in New York City. Almost as celebrated as the awards themselves are their trademark five-word acceptance speeches. The Wyss speech, delivered by Founding Director Don Ingber, was "When Nature calls, we listen." Other nominees included in the Science category were Scientific American, Wired Science, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. More...



April 2012

Trusting your gut(-on-a-chip)


Wyss researchers Hyun Jung Kim, Dan Huh, Geraldine Hamilton, and Founding Director Donald Ingber have created a gut-on-a-chip microdevice that simulates the structure, microenvironment, and peristalsis-like distortions of the human intestine and even supports the growth of living microbes. As a more accurate alternative to conventional cell culture and animal models, the device could provide new insights into intestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and also evaluate the safety and efficacy of potential treatments. The research findings appear in Lab on a Chip. More...


Robot building simplified

Printed Robot

Core Faculty Member Rob Wood and Visiting Scholar Daniela Rus will play key roles in an ambitious new project designed to make customized robots -- and their myriad potential applications -- widely available. Funded by a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the new project seeks to develop a desktop technology that enables a person anywhere to design and produce a specialized robot in a matter of hours. More...


Wyss Website Nominated for Internet's Highest Honor

Webby Awards

The Wyss website has been selected as one of five finalists for a Webby Award in the category of science. Nominees were selected by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences from among nearly 10,000 entries, representing all 50 states and more than 60 countries. In addition to the Webby Award, a People's Voice Award will be announced. Help us win the People's Voice Award -- vote Wyss!



February 2012

Nanorobots that tell cancer cells to self destruct

DNA nanorobot

A new robotic device made from DNA could potentially seek out specific cell targets and deliver important molecular instructions, such as telling cancer cells to self-destruct. The technology, which was developed by Wyss Technology Development Fellow Shawn Douglas, former Wyss Postdoctoral Fellow Ido Bachelet, and Wyss Core Faculty Member George Church, might one day be used to program immune responses to treat various diseases. The research findings appear in Science. More...


Nanotherapeutics for diabetes can target pancreas

Smart nanotherapeutics

Kaustabh Ghosh, a postdoctoral fellow at Children's Hospital Boston, and Wyss Institute Director Don Ingber have developed injectable nanotherapeutics that can deliver drugs directly to the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. The targeted approach could lead to improved treatment for Type I diabetes by increasing drug efficacy and reducing side effects. The findings were published in Nano Letters. More...


Conor Walsh joins the Wyss

Conor Walsh

Conor Walsh, Ph.D., has joined the Wyss Institute as a new core faculty member who will focus on developing smart medical devices for diagnostic, therapeutic, and assistive applications. In one project he is developing compact robots that operate inside medical imaging machines to enable the highly accurate placement of biopsy needles and thermal ablation probes. More...



December 2011

Third annual Wyss Institute retreat celebrates growth, breakthroughs, and progress

Wyss Retreat

From the many new research discoveries, to the dramatic increase in laboratory space, to a recent technology licensing agreement, the Wyss Institute's third annual retreat offered a dynamic window into our unique model and growth. The event brought together about 320 faculty, fellows, students, staff, clinical partners, and other collaborators to share updates, identify synergies, and foster communication. More...


Kilobot swarms into the market place


The Wyss Institute has licensed its Kilobot robotic technology to K-Team Corporation, a Swiss manufacturer of high-quality mobile robots. Designed by Radhika Nagpal, Michael Rubenstein, and other team members, this low-cost system, inspired by social insects, such as ants, advances the development of robot swarms that might one day tunnel through rubble to find survivors or self-assemble to form support structures in collapsed buildings. More on the story... Media coverage included reports from Discovery Channel News and MSNBC.


Over 100 students compete at BIOMOD 2011

Biomod grand prize winners

The Wyss Institute's inaugural international biomolecular design competition, BIOMOD 2011, took place in November. More than 100 participants representing 21 teams from around the world, including Germany, India, China, Japan, Slovenia, and Peru, converged to Boston for the BIOMOD jamboree. In demonstrating that an RNA nanostructure can be designed as both a drug carrier and as an active therapeutic agent, the Danish Nano Artists took home the grand prize at the event. More...


Where has that bacterium been?

Genetic security

In a new contract for $3.7 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Wyss researchers plan to develop a genetic security system that tracks an organism's history. The DNA-based memory device would sit inside a bacterium and create a permanent record of its historical experiences in much the same way as the "Track Changes" feature of word-processing software records successive edits in a document. Such a bacterial background check would be analogous to biological forensic tools, such as fingerprint analysis, DNA testing, and blood typing. More...


October 2011

Welcome to the new Wyss Institute website

Wyss website

Today marks the launch of the new Wyss website, which features the bold color palette and striking biologically inspired imagery that have come to be associated with our work. The new homepage provides direct access to the wide variety of content on the site, which includes a new set of videos that were filmed in our offices and labs and feature our faculty and staff members. Check out the site at



New DARPA grant will fund sepsis therapeutic device

DARPA grant

The Wyss Institute was awarded a $12.3 million, four-year grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a treatment for sepsis, a commonly fatal bloodstream infection. The proposed device will integrate several technologies by Wyss researchers, Don Ingber, Joanna Aizenberg, and George Church, including organs-on-a-chip, super slipery surfaces, and magnetic opsonins that can remove pathogens from the blood. More...


Slippery ships!


Inspired by nature, both efforts will focus on the creation of new surfaces that are capable of unprecedented adaptive and self-regulating behavior. Marine biofouling is one of the focus applications, where the proposed surfaces would offer a cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative to current toxic treatment methods and would result in lower ship drag and reduced fuel costs.


Inventing the future built environment

Adaptive Architecture workshop

The Wyss Institute's first workshop on adaptive architecture -- Buildings Inspired by Nature: Inventing the Future Built Environment -- brought together diverse members of the scientific community and the building industry to help set a future course for architecture. Led by Chuck Hoberman, Joanna Aizenberg, and Don Ingber, the event explored bioinspired advances in materials and structures that can address our most pressing building needs.


MAGE jumps in the industrial front

Cell cultures in 3D

We recently initiated a research collaboration with BASF, the world's largest chemical company. The collaboration, headed by George Church, explores use of the Wyss Institute’s Multiplexed Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE) technology as a faster, cost-effective alternative to current metabolic engineering alternatives. This collaboration complements our ongoing efforts using MAGE to explore pharmaceutical and biofuel applications.


















We've won a Webby Award!

Wyss Institute is proud to announce our win in the 2012
Webby Awards in the Science category.