Highlights from the Wyss Institute’s thirteenth year
2022 did not begin auspiciously, with the omicron variant surge increasing pandemic precautions and sending some of our staff back to remote work for at least three weeks. Fortunately, the rest of this year more than made up for that initial setback, as we oversaw the continued progress of our new space at 201 Brookline Avenue and received an unprecedented generous fourth gift from Hansjörg Wyss, our founding donor.
Through it all, our community of innovative collaborators remained steadfast in its commitment to developing cutting-edge technologies and commercializing them for near-term impact on healthcare and sustainability. Join us as we recap some of the highlights from 2022.
We were founded on the core belief that breakthrough discoveries can’t change the world if they don’t leave the lab. To that end, the Wyss employs a unique model of technology translation within academia so that innovations can be de-risked to the point where they’re ready to be commercialized, maximizing their impact.
Wyss members are inventors on 185 patents this year. Patents provide crucial intellectual property protection that serves as the basis for successful licensing agreements and demonstrate our researchers’ commitment to pushing the envelope of what’s possible through creating cutting-edge inventions.
Eighteen technologies developed at the Wyss were licensed through Harvard’s Office of Technology Development this year, including an injectable, biocompatible scaffold for the sustained release of tissue-regenerative molecules licensed to Alkem Laboratories Limited, which is developing it into a treatment for injuries caused by vascular disease. Seven licenses were granted to new startups, including 3EO Health, which is creating at-home molecular testing with PCR-grade sensitivity and antigen test-level cost, and Unravel Biosciences, which is developing therapeutics for rare genetic diseases affecting the central nervous system, like Rett syndrome.
Technology Development Highlights
On the road to commercialization, projects go through our technology innovation funnel. Our most valuable and disruptive technologies the strongest potential for real-world applications often become Validation Projects and/or Institute Projects. This year’s Validation Projects are using the funds, business development support, and other resources of this mechanism to drive their technology translation efforts forward. Many current and former Validation Projects hit exciting milestones this year.
In May, second-year Validation Project Sparkle won the Audience Award at the MIT 100K Pitch Competition. This event brings together students and researchers across greater Boston to showcase their talent, ideas, and technologies. In June, DoriVac won the Alnylam Bioventure Challenge. Developed in partnership with Nucleate, this biotechnology entrepreneurship competition supports aspiring biotech founders in the early stages of their work.
The former Validation Project on Tough Gel Adhesives, which can be used to repair internal and external injuries without sutures, won the $75,000 first-place prize in the Health & Life Sciences category at the Harvard President’s Innovation Challenge. The technology was licensed to Amend Surgical in 2020 for dental applications but is also being further developed at the Wyss. In 2022, the team developed “Janus Tough Adhesives,” a version that enables the repair of injured tendons and that can also act as high-capacity drug depots.
Nearly 40 stories about the groundbreaking scientific advances made by our researchers were published on our website this year. Wyss community members authored over 160 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including six in Science and three in Nature. Our most-read news stories include the following:
The immune system is very complicated, but now, it’s on a chip
Lymphoid follicles formed in a microfluidic Organ Chip replicate human immune functions and vaccine responses in vitro
March 15 | Advanced Science
New cancer vaccine delivers double punch to tumors
Novel design stimulates a coordinated attack by T and natural killer cells that prevents metastasis in mice
May 27 | Nature
Programming complex tissue organizations in 3D
Simultaneous, programmable generation and organization of cell types with different origins and functions in artificial tissues could invigorate future biomedical 3D organ and tissue engineering
May 10 | Nature Biomedical Engineering
Top Media Coverage
Several major news outlets featured the Wyss throughout 2022.
In October, Hansjörg Wyss generously donated his fourth transformational gift to the Institute, enabling us to continue to make a positive impact on healthcare and sustainability for years to come. Forbes and The Boston Globe helped us thank Mr. Wyss by sharing this story.
This summer, rising temperatures reminded everyone about the need for innovation in air conditioning. An eco-friendly evaporative cooling technology developed at the Wyss was featured in Fast Company and The Washington Post.
A method to regrow frog limbs captured popular attention, and was covered in CNN shortly after the publication of a new paper. In June, a National Geographic piece about the power of bioelectricity in medicine also featured this scientific achievement.
Our year in review would not be complete without showcasing our passionate, diverse, and creative community.