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Renowned regenerative and developmental biologist Michael Levin of Tufts University joins Wyss Institute as Associate Faculty

Levin’s expertise in developmental biology, molecular genetics, and biophysics will help advance the Wyss Institute’s efforts in drug discovery and organ regeneration

By Benjamin Boettner

(BOSTON) — The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has appointed Tufts University’s Michael Levin, Ph.D., as a new Wyss Associate Faculty member, unlocking new collaborative approaches to bioengineering and adding to its cross-institutional partnership with Tufts University.

07/16/2012 - Medford, Mass. - Tufts University Biology professor Michael Levin poses for a portrait in his lab on July 16, 2012. Levin's research focuses on embryonic development and cellular regeneration, using frogs and tadpoles, among other organisms, to measure their regenerative properties.  (Kelvin Ma/Tufts University)
Michael Levin, Wyss Associate Faculty member. Credit: Kelvin Ma/Tufts University

Levin is a regenerative and developmental biologist renowned for his accomplishments in deciphering and modeling bioelectrical processes that control organ regeneration. He is a professor in the Biology Department at Tufts University, holds the Vannevar Bush endowed Chair, and serves as founding director of the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. Levin currently also serves as the Director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University and is associated with MIT’s Science and Technology Center’s Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS).

Levin becomes the Wyss Institute’s 15th Associate Faculty member.

“We enthusiastically welcome Mike Levin as a member of our faculty. His unique vision and expertise are already leading to entirely new approaches to technology development, creation of novel ‘organism-on-a-chip’ experimental tools, and discovery of therapeutics that enhance host tolerance to infections in our ongoing THoR program funded by DARPA. He is a perfect fit for our community and his creativity and energy will likely result in his involvement in many efforts that cross the Institutes wide-ranging technology platforms,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at HMS and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.

Already Levin’s pioneering work on the molecular genetic mechanisms that allow embryos to form left-right asymmetric body structures and that earned him his Ph.D. from Harvard University was selected for the journal Nature’s list of ‘100 Milestones of Developmental Biology of the last Century’. In his subsequent research activity, first as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, and then in his independent laboratory at Harvard’s Forsyth Institute, Levin explored the algorithms and newly discovered ‘bioelectric language’ by which cells in the body coordinate their activities toward the construction and repair of complex anatomical structures, using Xenopus frog embryos and regenerating planarian flatworms as key model systems.

His team’s present research at Tufts University is focused on the genetic and biophysical mechanisms that enable decision-making during the complex development of the embryo and of individual organs and harnessing these insights towards developing new solutions for regenerative medicine and cancer suppression, as well as the creation of artificial intelligence applications for augmenting insight into biological controls. At the Wyss Institute, he will be collaborating with Donald Ingber and James Collins on a program focused on development of a highly multilplexed, microfluidic, Xenopus embryo culture system that will enable discovery of new drug targets and development of therapeutics when combined with multi-omics and an integrated bioinformatics pipeline. The team’s initial focus is on development of therapeutics that enhance host tolerance to infections, as part of a DARPA-funded THoR research program.

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