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Announcing the 2024 “Faculty Focus” List

Technologies hand-picked by our Wyss Faculty for their potential impact

This year, we’re excited to announce our first-ever Wyss Faculty Focus list. We asked our world-class faculty which of their technologies they’re most excited about getting out of the lab and into the real world, and they’ve chosen the ones below.

If you’re interested in collaborating, licensing, or otherwise getting involved with any of these technologies, please reach out to their respective contacts.

Instrument-Free Molecular Diagnostics

There is a large unmet need for cheap, readily accessible, accurate diagnostic tests that can be deployed in non-clinical settings to address public health crises, from global pandemics to natural disasters to pollution. Our freeze-dried, cell-free reaction technology enables the production of cheap yet sophisticated biomolecule diagnostic tests that can be stored at room temperature, as well as other applications in which the detection of a target molecule without lab equipment is desired.

Announcing the 2024 “Faculty Focus” List
directEsense is a label-free electrochemical sensing technology that greatly simplifies the detection of disease biomarkers.

directEsense: Revolutionizing Animal Diagnostic Testing at the Point-of-Care

Veterinary care is plagued by many of the same problems as the human healthcare system, including the poor accessibility, slow turnaround times, and high costs of diagnostic tests. We have created a new “label-free” sensing technology that significantly simplifies the design of diagnostic devices, opening a broad range of opportunities. The team is currently exploring the veterinary diagnostic market, which amounts to about $7 billion annually.

  • Faculty: Don Ingber
  • Contact: Alex Li

Immunostimulatory RNA Therapeutic for Treatment of Cancer Infectious Disease

We identified a new class of immunostimulatory short duplex RNAs that induce production of interferons that can inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells, which could be used alone or in combination with current treatment options, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors. These powerful molecules could also be used to treat respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and influenza A.

  • Faculty: Don Ingber
  • Contact: Alex Li

Metabolically Labeled CAR-T Cells Against Cancer

Adoptive T cell therapies like CAR-T cell therapy have shown spectacular success in treating blood cancers, but they don’t work very well for solid tumors. Wyss scientists have invented a novel metabolic labeling technology that enables the “tagging” the surface of T cells with immune-enhancing cytokine molecules. This approach has the potential to boost the efficacy not only of T cell therapies, but also of other cellular therapies, while largely avoiding the toxicity of systemically delivered cytokines.

Announcing the 2024 “Faculty Focus” List
Dionis Minev (left) and Anastasia Ershova (right) are developing the Crisscross Nanoseed Detection technology at the Wyss Institute. Credit: Wyss Institute.

Crisscross Nanoseed Detection: Nanotechnology-Powered Infectious Disease Diagnostics

Time, speed, and cost are of the essence when developing diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, but the majority of pathogens still require patients to visit a specialized lab or hospital for diagnosis. We have created an enzyme-free pathogen detection platform that can target specific nucleic acid sequences and proteins. The method, called Crisscross Nanoseed Detection, is highly specific and ultrasensitive due to the suppression of non-specific interactions that cause false positives.

DNA Nanoswitches: “Lab-on-a-Molecule” for Diagnostics

Our Lab-on-a-Molecule project has created a DNA-based platform that enables high-throughput, low-cost screening of libraries composed of biomolecules. Northpond Labs is partnering with us to develop the platform for drug discovery, but significant opportunities remain to leverage it for creating new diagnostics.

Lactation Biologics: Increasing milk production for fetal and maternal health

Infants are born to breastfeed, but 50% of lactating parents struggle to make enough milk for them. In addition to providing the best nutrition possible, breast milk is also a crucial source of food for babies during power outages, supply chain disruptions, and in places without access to clean water. We’re developing a protein therapeutic to increase lactation and improve the health of infants and their parents worldwide.

Extracellular Vesicles for Biomarker Detection

The Walt lab has developed an assay and platform to collect novel biomarkers in the form of extracellular vesicles (EVs) released from cells. As a result, a wider variety of EVs with unmatched quality, quantity, and purity can be obtained. EVs hold incredible value for the scientific and medical communities, as they can provide a better understanding of how disease starts in organs and tissues that are typically inaccessible to diagnostics, such as the brain. This platform can also enable improved and earlier diagnostics of deadly diseases such as ovarian cancer, and can uncover new disease targets to accelerate drug discovery.

Announcing the 2024 “Faculty Focus” List
In the U.S. alone, nearly 90,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease each year based alone on behavioral neurological symptoms that only appear later in the disease process. Now, a team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital has developed a molecular assay that can detect and quantify minute amounts of a critical biomarker of PD and related neurological disorders that is present early in disease. Credit: Shutterstock/Halk-44

Neurodegenerative Disease Diagnostics Using Extracellular Vesicles

Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s develop years before symptoms appear, but there is currently no way to diagnose the disease in its early stages. A Wyss team in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital has developed a molecular assay platform that successfully detected and quantified tiny amounts of the ⍺-synuclein protein fibrils that are a hallmark of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. This platform enables the sampling of extracellular vesicles circulating in a patient’s blood and testing them for the presence of biomarkers for a variety of diseases.

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