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News from the Wyss Institute

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March 2015

Fluid–filled pores separate materials with fine precision

fluid gate

A team of Harvard scientists led by Joanna Aizenberg, Ph.D., a Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has developed an entirely new, highly versatile mechanism for controlling passage of materials through micropores, using fluid to modulate their opening and closing. Aizenberg, who is also Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Co-Director of the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology, calls the new system a "fluid–based gating mechanism." The work is reported in the March 5 issue of NatureRead press release...


Wyss Institute's Organs-on-Chips acquired by Museum of Modern Art

MoMA Exhibit

Samples of the Wyss Institute's Human Organs–on–Chips were formally acquired by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) of New York City on March 2, 2015, and are on display in MoMA's latest Architecture and Design Exhibition, "This Is For Everyone: Design For The Common Good", until January 2016. The human organs–on–chips were recognized by Paola Antonelli, the museum's senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design, for their state–of–the–art design and rendering which allows them to emulate complex human organ structures and functions using a combination of living cells and mechanical components encased in a flexible translucent polymer fabricated using computer microchip manufacturing methods. Read press release...


Activating genes on demand

genes on demand

A new approach developed by Harvard geneticist and Wyss Institute Core Faculty member George Church, Ph.D., can help uncover how tandem gene circuits dictate life processes, such as the healthy development of tissue or the triggering of a particular disease, and can also be used for directing precision stem cell differentiation for regenerative medicine and growing organ transplants. Read press release...


February 2015

Color-changing mollusk shell reveals secrets of natural optical structures

color-changing mollusk

A materials research team co-led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Joanna Aizenberg has identified optical structures in a mollusk shell that could help develop translucent screens capable of displaying color patterns. The findings, reported this week in the journal Nature Communications, represent the first evidence of an organism using mineralized structural components to produce optical displays. Read more...



Human organs–on–chips nominated for Design of the Year 2015


The annual awards and corresponding exhibition at the London Design Museum honor the world's most forward-thinking and innovative designs. Organs-on-chips are nominated in the Product category, for which they have been recognized for their potential ability to deliver transformative changes to human health and pharmaceutical care. Read press release...




Novel non-stick material joins portfolio of slippery surface technologies

liquid-infused polymers

A new study reported in the inaugural issue of ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering demonstrates a powerful, long–lasting repellent surface technology that can be used with medical materials to prevent infections caused by biofilms.The new approach, which its inventors are calling "liquid–infused polymers", joins an arsenal of slippery surface coatings that have been developed at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Read press release...


"Bionic leaf" uses bacteria to convert solar energy into liquid fuel

bionic leaf

Now scientists from a team spanning Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a system that uses bacteria to convert solar energy into a liquid fuel. Their work integrates an "artificial leaf" which uses a catalyst to make sunlight split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with a bacterium engineered to convert carbon dioxide plus hydrogen into the liquid fuel isopropanol. Read press release...





Tooth research at the cutting edge

Weaver tooth research

In a Perspective Article in Science, James C. Weaver from the Wyss Institute and Yael Politi from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces describe new research on sub-nanometer resolution 3D elemental mapping of mineral phases in vertebrate tooth enamel and the mechanical consequences of these discoveries. Read article...





Protecting the atmosphere from power plant emissions

baking soda captures carbon

Wyss Institute Core Faculty Member Jennifer Lewis and her team have developed a breakthrough approach that uses the environmentally benign kitchen-grade baking soda to capture carbon at high rates. The work is described in Nature CommunicationsRead more...





January 2015

DNA nanoswitches reveal how life's molecules connect

DNA Nanoswitches

A new approach developed by a team of researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard Medical School led by Wyss Institute Associate Faculty member Wesley Wong promises a much faster and more affordable way to examine bio–molecular behavior, opening the door for scientists in virtually any laboratory world–wide to join the quest for creating better drugs. The findings are published in February's issue of Nature MethodsRead press release...


Animal contraceptive vaccine could reduce euthanasia in shelters


Wyss Institute Core Faculty member David Mooney has received a three-year grant totaling more than $700,000 from the Michelson Found Animals Foundation to pursue the development of a nonsurgical alternative to spaying and neutering animals. Read press release...





December 2014

Bacteria colonies could replace chemical factories

E. coli

Scientists led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member George Church have engineered super-productive bacteria colonies that pump out chemicals faster than ever using “survival of the fittest” evolutionary tactics. As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists modified the genes of bacteria in such a way that they can now program exactly what chemical they want the cells to produce through their metabolic processes, and how much of it. This advance has implications for pharmaceutical, biofuel, and renewable chemical production. Read press release...


Injectable 3D vaccines to fight cancer

Injectable 3D vaccines

One of the reasons cancer is so deadly is that it can evade attack from the body's immune system, which allows tumors to flourish and spread. Scientists can try to induce the immune system, known as immunotherapy, to go into attack mode to fight cancer and to build long lasting immune resistance to cancer cells. Now, a team at the Wyss Institute led by Core Faculty member David Mooney show a non-surgical injection of programmable biomaterial that spontaneously assembles in vivo into a 3D structure could fight and even help prevent cancer and also infectious disease such as HIV. Their findings are reported in Nature Biotechnology. Read press release...


Towards more predictive stem cell engineering

Deconstructing pluripotency

By using powerful new single–cell genetic profiling techniques, scientists at the Wyss Institute and Boston Children's Hospital including Core Faculty member James Collins have uncovered far more variation in pluripotent stem cells than was previously appreciated. The findings, reported in Nature, bring researchers closer to a day when many different kinds of stem cells could be leveraged for disease therapy and regenerative treatments.  Read press release...



November 2014

Genome editing technology licensed


Together with the Broad Institute and MIT, Harvard University has licensed the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to Editas Medicine for the development of human therapeutic applications. Developed by a team of researchers led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member and pioneer in personal genomics George Church, the CRISPR-Cas9 system allows the insertion, replacement, and regulation of targeted genes in higher organisms. This technology could lay the groundwork for treating a broad range of diseases including hemophilia and HIV. Read press release...


Computer model to advance drug discovery

Computer model to advance drug discovery

A major challenge faced by the pharmaceutical industry has been how to rationally design and select protein molecules to create effective biologic drug therapies while reducing unintended side effects — a challenge that has largely been addressed through costly guess–and–check experiments. Reported in Biophysical Journal, a team of Wyss Institute researchers led by Core Faculty member Pam Silver have developed a new computational model to precisely predict biologic drug behavior, enabling better therapeutic drug design while reducing undesirable side effects. Read press release...


Bringing translation to the forefront of scientific mindset

Biomedical translation

Wyss Core Faculty member David Mooney and Associate Faculty member Georg Duda published the first in a collection of articles in Science Translational Medicine that emphasize the most important themes from the Translate! 2014 meeting in Berlin last month. The commentary describes a more effective model of biomedical translation that requires interactive and collaborative industrial partnerships at early stages of scientific discovery to help frame commercialization as the ultimate goal rather than an afterthought. Read article...


October 2014

'SLIPS' company launched


Developed at the Wyss Institute, an ultra-slippery coating that repels virtually all liquids and solids will be made available for a wide range of custom commercial applications through a newly formed private company, SLIPS Technologies, Inc. SLIPS was inspired by the pitcher plant, which has pitcher-shaped leaves that become so slippery, insects cannot escape sliding down the leaves into the plant's digestive juices. Read press release...




Vibrating shoe insoles improve gait, balance in elderly


A new study by Hebrew SeniorLife testing devices designed at the Wyss Institute shows vibrating insoles could help reduce falls in elderly people by using the principle of stochastic resonance to reduce balance issues and walking variability. Read press release...






Double take: "synthetic" synthetic biology

paper based diagnostic

Two Wyss teams led by Core Faculty members James Collins and Peng Yin clench two breakthroughs that could stand alone or double up to allow for complex, de-novo-designed diagnostic and therapeutic gene circuits to be delivered on pocket-sized slips of paper. Read press release...






Ambitious DNA crystal designs realized

DNA crystals

Wyss Institute Core Faculty members Peng Yin and William Shih have manufactured the first large DNA crystals with prescribed depths and complex features, which are more than 1,000 times larger than particles they have already successfully built using programmable, self-assembling DNA nanotechnology. Read press release...





Molecular probe tracks cellular forces

new molecular probe

Multi-institutional collaborators, led by Wyss Institute Associate Faculty Member Christopher Chen, developed a new probe that uses hairpin-shaped, single-strand DNA to detect how much force cells exert on their environment. Measuring cell traction forces is key to understanding how cells signal biological processes ranging from fundamental cell division to embryonic development. Read press release...




Novel coating repels blood, bacteria in medical devices

TLP coating

A multidisciplinary team led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber and Core Faculty Member Joanna Aizenberg have used FDA-approved materials to develop a surface coating that can be applied to medical devices to prevent blood clotting and bacteria infection. Read press release...





Nano-foundries made of stiff DNA sequences

DNA casting

A general strategy to fabricate metal and other inorganic nanoparticles from self-assembling DNA “molds” has been developed by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Peng Yin and his team. As reported in Science, the ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3D shapes is a significant breakthrough that has the potential to advance disease detection, electronics, solar cell technology and more. Read press release...



September 2014

Mimicking asthma-on-a-chip


A team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Kit Parker have developed an airway muscle-on-a-chip that accurately mimics the way smooth muscle contracts in the human airway both under normal circumstances and when exposed to asthma triggers. The chip could be used to test new drugs and may pave the way for patient-specific asthma treatments. Read press release...





Diabetes: complexity lost

dynamical glucometry

A group of researchers including Wyss Core Faculty member Ary Goldberger have discovered a novel way of looking at information hidden in blood sugar readings. The approach, “dynamical glucometry,” reveals that the encoded information is much more complex in healthy human systems compared to people with diabetes. This discovery suggests that complex physiology may allow for higher levels of adaptability, helping healthy people survive. If this is true for diabetes, then dynamical glucometry could lead to new treatments designed to restore the complexity of the body’s fuel regulation system. Read more on Science Daily...



Soft robotics 'toolkit' features everything a robot-maker needs

soft robotics toolkit

A team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member George Whitesides, Rob Rood, and Conor Walsh have developed an online resource for sharing design approaches, techniques, and technical knowledge to stimulate the creation of novel soft devices, tools, and methods. The toolkit provides both experienced and aspiring researchers with the intellectual raw materials needed to design, build, and operate robots made from soft, flexible materials. Read press release...




Soft Exosuit powers along

Soft Exosuit

Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Conor Walsh and his team have been awarded a DARPA contract to further develop the biologically inspired Soft Exosuit - a wearable robot made from lightweight and flexible materials. The device is intended to be worn comfortably under clothing and could enable soldiers to walk longer distances, keep fatigue at bay, and minimize the risk of injury when carrying heavy loads. Alternative versions of the suit could eventually assist those with limited mobility as well. Read press release...



Breaking the mold of biofilms


A team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Neel Joshi report in Nature Communication their foundational work using bacterial biofilms for the production of new self-healing materials and bioprocessing technologies. In short, they want to give biofilms a facelift, and have developed a novel protein engineering system called BIND to do so. Using BIND, which stands for Biofilm-Integrated Nanofiber Display, the team said biofilms could be tomorrow's living foundries for the large-scale production of biomaterials that can be programmed to provide functions not possible with existing materials. Read press release...



New bioinspired approach to sepsis therapy


A team led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, Senior Staff Scientist Mike Super and Technology Development Fellow Joo Kang have designed a novel device inspired by the spleen that quickly filters bacteria, fungi and other toxins from blood. The device, called a "biospleen," exceeded the team's expectations with its ability to cleanse human blood tested in the laboratory and increase survival in animals with infected blood, as reported in Nature Medicine. Read press release...



August 2014

Self-folding robot walks away

self-folding robot

Team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Rob Wood has developed a robot that folds itself up and walks away without any human interaction. The advanced, described in Science, demonstrates the potential to quickly and cheaply build sophisticated machines that interact with the environment, and to automate much of the design and assembly process. Read press release...




New roadmap to guide stem cell medicine


Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Jim Collins with collaborators at Boston Children's Hospital and the Mayo Clinic introduce CellNet, a computational platform available as an internet resource for any scientist to use that helps evaluate and assess the quality of engineered cells. This can help ensure that the cells engineered in the lab would have the same favorable properties as cells in our own bodies. CellNet and its application to stem cell engineering are described in two back-to-back papers in the August 14 issue of Cell. Read press release...


A self-organizing thousand-robot swarm


A team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Radhika Nagpal have assembled the first thousand-robot flash mob. The Kilobots demonstrate how complexity can arise from very simple behaviors performed en masse. "The beauty of biological systems is that they are elegantly simple--and yet, in large numbers, accomplish the seemingly impossible," said Nagpal. "At some level you no longer even see the individuals; you just see the collective as an entity to itself."  Read press release...


How we fight cancer

Wyss Cancer Vaccine

A new animation explains how the Wyss Institute cancer vaccine technology developed in collaboration with biologists, clinicians and researchers at the Institute, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences works by reprogramming the immune system to reject cancer cells. Watch on Vimeo...



Dynamic daylight control system

Dynamic daylight control system

Researchers at the Wyss Institute and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) have jointly developed a unique and flexible approach to dynamically redirecting daylight to maximize the daylight autonomy and save energy. This video shows a shoebox model of the novel Dynamic Daylight Redirection System. Read the full story or learn more about the technology.


How the brain gets its folds


A team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member L. Mahadevan used numerical simulations and a physical gel model to answer an age-old question that has vexed scientists for years: how did the outer layer of the mammalian brain (gray matter) become so convoluted atop the brain’s inner white matter? It turns out that at the heart of the brain matter is a relatively simple mechanical instability whereby the gray matter is constrained by the white matter, which leads to the characteristic folds and crevasses. The results, published in PNAS, help scientists better understand anomalies in brain development that lead to loss of function and disease. Watch on Vimeo...


Refilling drug delivery depots

Dave Mooney

Drug depots are polymers that release a continuous supply of therapeutic drugs to fight disease. Once injected or implanted, they are usually a one-shot deal -- but a team led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member David Mooney just reported a noninvasive way to refill them. The method, reported in PNAS, harnesses the specific binding power of nucleic acids to refill drug depots through the blood. The team demonstrated the proof-of-concept using alginate hydrogels that were modified to include a specific nucleic acid sequence that bound to the complementary sequence attached to alginate strands loaded with the drug payload. The advance could represent a new paradigm for noninvasive drug delivery in cancer therapy, wound healing treatments, and more – and it builds on previous work by Mooney’s team on noninvasive drug delivery. View publication...


July 2014

Technology translation engine launches 'Organs-on-Chips' company

organs on chips

The Wyss Institute announced the launch of a newly formed private company, Emulate, Inc., to accelerate development of pharmaceutical, chemical, cosmetic, and personalized medicine products through its human organs-on-chips lead technology. This achievement demonstrates the success of the Institute’s unique model to facilitate translation of technologies from bench top to the marketplace. Read press release...



NanoString Technologies, Inc. licenses Wyss Institute hybridization probe technology

ultraspecific hybridization probe

US based company will utilize a novel ultraspecific hybridization probe technology developed by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Peng Yin and David Zhang, former Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute and Ted Law Jr. Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University to bolster a portfolio of validated tools for cancer research and personalized medicine. Read more...


New genome editing strategy


Cross-disciplinary team led by Wyss Institute Technology Development Fellow Kevin Esvelt, Core Faculty member George Church, and others launches public conversation in Science and eLife about an emerging technology that could help control insect-borne disease and invasive species. Read press release...



Delivering drugs on cue

ultrasound cancer

Wyss Institute Core Faculty member David Mooney and his team use ultrasound and new responsive self-healing hydrogels to locally deliver chemotherapy drugs "on demand." The team demonstrated that the pulsed, ultrasound-triggered hydrogel approach to drug delivery was more effective at stopping the growth of tumor cells than traditional, sustained-release drug therapy. This advance has promising implications for improved cancer treatment and other therapies that require drug delivery to the right place at the right time. Read press release...


June 2014

Better than balsa

Balsa Wood

A team of material scientists led by Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Jennifer Lewis is using new resin inks and 3D printing to construct lightweight cellular composites that mimic balsa wood. These 3D composites may be useful for wind turbine, automotive and aerospace applications, where high stiffness and strength-to-weight ratios are needed. Read press release...



What if we could make water tough?


Researchers working on the Institute's Programmable Nanomaterials Platform are honing an extremely stretchy and tough hydrogel that may pave the way to replacing damaged cartilage in human joints. Learn more...





May 2014

Researchers use multi-material 3D printing to fabricate the first biomimetic shark skin

Biomimetic shark skin

Harvard scientist George Lauder and Wyss Institute Senior Staff Scientist James Weaver have characterized the hydrodynamic properties of synthetic shark skin—an advance that could inspire improved swimsuit, boat, and aircraft designs. Read story...



Rational design: best route for synthetic biology?

Pam Silver and Jeff Way

A healthy debate exists in science about the best way to engineer new biological systems that can clean water, generate green energy solutions, treat diseases, and more. Recently in Nature Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Pamela Silver and Senior Staff Scientist Jeffrey Way argue that a rational design approach is the best way to go because it weaves critical idiosyncrasies provided by Nature into the engineering mindset that has propelled synthetic biology thus far. Read story...


March 2014

Manufacturing a solution to planet-clogging plastics

Chitosan bioplastic

A team led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber and Postdoctoral Fellow Javier Fernandez has developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. This advance reflects the next iteration of a material called 'Shrilk' that replicated the appearance and unique material properties of living insect cuticle. This material omits the silk in an attempt to make even cheaper, easier-to-make chitin-based bioplastic primed for wide-spread manufacturing. Read press release...



Shrinking gel for shaping organs

shrinking gel

Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber and Core Faculty member Joanna Aizenberg have developed a material inspired by the embryo's power to shape organs that could enable engineering of new teeth, bone, or other tissues, as reported in Advanced Materials. Read press release...



February 2014

Robotic construction crew needs no foreman


Inspired by termites' resilience and collective intelligence, Wyss Institute researchers led by Core Faculty member Radhika Nagpal developed an autonomous robot construction crew. The system, known as TERMES, needs no supervisor, no eye in the sky, and no communication: just simple robots - any number of robots - that cooperate by modifying their environment. TERMES is an important proof of concept for scalable, distributed artificial intelligence, and could one day be used to perform tasks as autonomously building human scale structures. Read press release...


Toward printing living tissues

3D printed tissue

Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Jennifer Lewis and her team have developed a new 3D printing method that takes them one step closer to the goal of printing human tissue for drug testing and eventually tissue repair in the body. Read press release...



October 2013

New collaboration with AstraZeneca will advance Organs-on-Chips

AstraZeneca Wyss Collaboration

The Wyss Institute and AstraZeneca have teamed up to develop new animal versions of organs-on-chips. These animal organs-on-chips will be tested alongside the human models to further understand the extent to which drug safety results in animals can predict how an investigational drug might impact humans. This collaboration will help Institute researchers further validate the organs-on-chips approach as a potential alternative to animal testing. Read press release...


September 2013

Wyss Institute expands international reach through collaboration with Charité

Charité Wyss Collaboration

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany is one of Europe’s largest university hospitals and now the Wyss Institute’s tenth collaborating institution. The partnership with Charité will accelerate the clinical translation of new materials and tissue engineering technologies for orthopedics and connective tissue regeneration. Read press release...


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 a winner of the 2012 Webby Awards in the Science category.