Wyss Institute Core Faculty member, James J. Collins, Ph.D., has been elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) on the basis of his contributions to synthetic biology and engineered gene networks. Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer.
Collins leads the Wyss Institute’s work in anticipatory medical devices — tools so attuned to the body’s signals that they can sense the threat of injury or the onset of a life-threatening event and stimulate the nerves and muscles in such a way as to prevent it from happening. In one project, Collins is developing vibrating insoles that will reduce the incidence of falls among elderly users.
He is also developing innovative ways to reprogram organisms, particularly bacteria, to perform desired tasks, such as attacking tumors and guiding development of stem cells. These programmed bacteria could lead to cheaper drugs and much more effective treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections and diseases.
"With Jim on the Wyss team, we know that we are one step closer to realizing our goal of developing the kind of innovative technologies that will revolutionize healthcare and dramatically improve people’s lives," said Wyss Founding Director, Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. "We’re very proud to see him receive this honor from the National Academy of Engineering for his many seminal contributions to the emerging field of Biologically Inspired Engineering."
Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, including contributions to engineering literature and to the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advances in traditional fields of engineering or developing and implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.
In addition to Collins, Wyss Institute core faculty members David Edwards, David Mooney, and George Whitesides are also NAE members.
At Boston University, Collins is a William F. Warren Distinguished Professor, University Professor, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Co-Director of the Center for BioDynamics. In 2008, he became the first Boston University faculty member to become a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He has received a MacArthur "Genius Award," a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award, and the Lagrange-CRT Foundation Prize. He has been named to the Technology Review list of top 100 young innovators and the Scientific American list of top 50 outstanding leaders in science and technology.