Enabling Technology Platforms
The Wyss Institute focuses its research and development efforts on six Enabling Technology Platforms to create new bioinspired materials and devices, and to translate them into products. These Platforms are teams of Institute faculty, students, fellows and expert research scientists and engineers with extensive industrial experience, who develop entirely new technologies necessary to advance bioinspired material and device development, with a focus on specific high-value application areas. These platforms are essentially ‘Cores that create other Cores,’ as prototype technologies developed through these activities eventually will be made available to all members of the Wyss community. The platforms also provide the Wyss community with unique technical resources and state-of-the-art equipment, as well as a rich environment for students and staff to learn how to translate ideas and discoveries into products with great clinical or commercial value. The Institute’s Enabling Technology Platforms are:
Adaptive Material Technologies
The biological designs of living organisms offer lessons in environmental responsiveness, optimization, and self-healing. The Adaptive Material Technologies Platform applies these lessons to create biomimetic materials and devices that respond to environmental cues like living organisms. The long-range vision is to design entire buildings that adapt their shape and function to continuously optimize energy efficiency, thermal gain, and other properties critical for sustainability.
Living Cellular Devices
The Living Cellular Devices Platform envisions a future where electronic devices would be replaced with synthetic components for sensing, computation, and therapeutic intervention modeled after biological structures found in cells and organ systems. These systems would operate at the cellular level, communicating to fight disease or repair malfunctioning tissues in patients with genetic disorders, or to produce therapeutic proteins or molecules of interest.
Scientists in the Bioinspired Robotics Platform are developing entirely new types of robotic devices that move and adapt like living creatures. Taking cues from flying insects, social insect colonies, and a growing embryo, one long-range vision is to develop robots that work together to build larger structures with unique properties, such as the ability to span a ravine or forge an escape route for earthquake victims.
When scientists started fabricating microchips from silicon they opened doors to the modern age of electronics. The Biomimetic Microsystems Platform uses similar approaches to engineer tiny devices containing human cells, mimicking the blood vessels and tissues of living organs. Platform scientists are using these organs-on-a-chip to accelerate development of new pharmaceuticals, identify toxins in the environment, and treat life-threatening diseases, such as sepsis in hospitalized patients.
The Programmable Nanomaterials Platform emulates the natural process of molecular self-assembly to create materials that can seek out injury sites, deliver drugs, and promote tissue repair. Platform scientists also work to engineer medical devices that can be controlled remotely, such as heart pacemakers triggered by magnets instead of wires, hormone production spurred by flashes of light, or limb regeneration stimulated by electric fields.
The Synthetic Biology Platform replicates evolutionary processes to create a broad diversity of biomolecular components, which can be used to target drugs to specific sites in the body, and to create gene circuits for reprogramming cell behavior. The unprecedented ability to generate virtually any molecular structure quickly – and at low cost – gives scientists new tools to reverse cancer, deliver stem cells to injury sites, and engineer microbes that produce biodegradable plastics or generate energy.