BOSTON — Wyss Core Faculty members George Whitesides, Ph.D., and David Edwards, Ph.D., have been named Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI)–joining 141 other innovators elected this year.
NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. Together, this year’s NAI Fellows hold more than 5,600 U.S. patents.
“The impressive spectrum of technologies generated by the Whitesides and Edwards teams reflects the ambition and vigor of the Wyss Institute model,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, Ph.D. “It is wonderful to see their innovations recognized by such a prestigious academy.”
In addition to his affiliation with the Wyss Institute, George Whitesides–the most cited chemist in the world and author of more than 950 scientific articles and numerous patents–is also the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University. His work spans many disciplines, including physical and organic chemistry, materials science, biophysics, microfluidics, self-assembly, micro- and nanotechnology, science for developing economies, origin of life, cell-surface biochemistry, and more.
Whitesides is working with other Wyss researchers to pioneer advancements in soft robotics–taking cues from flexible organisms such as the octopus–to inspire the next generation of medical devices. He is also developing diagnostic tools that are low cost, simple to use, and durable enough to withstand conditions in rural areas and in the developing world. For example, he has incorporated advanced microfluidics into paper-based devices about the size of a postage stamp that can be used by laypeople to diagnose diseases such as diabetes.
Whitesides has received dozens of awards, including the Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences for his creation of new materials that have significantly advanced the field of chemistry and its societal benefits. He has also received the Priestley Medal — the highest honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society — and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry for his pioneering research in molecular self-assembly and innovative nanofabrication techniques. He also received the President’s National Medal of Science, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of numerous societies.
In addition to his Wyss Core Faculty position, David Edwards — one of the youngest members ever elected to the U.S. and French National Academies of Engineering — is also the Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Idea Translation at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Edwards combines the logic of science with the creativity of art to develop technological advances, design solutions, and creative partnerships around the world. He founded and directs Le Laboratoire in Paris that is also soon to open a new branch in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which brings artists and scientists together to develop new innovations, often engaging Edwards and his students in the context of his Wyss Institute research. Among Edwards’ new innovations in recent years are: a packaging platform for food and beverage products that avoids plastic and other damaging materials, inspired by fruits and vegetables; a platform for delivering nutrition via the air for better healthcare, including chocolate without calories, and vitamins and supplements without pills; and the oPhone, a new platform for delivering complex olfactory signals for healthcare, entertainment, and global communications.
The Wyss Institute also supports Edwards’ Idea Translation program at Harvard–an innovation “bootcamp” for college students that offers a new model of experimental learning, and commercializes their ideas into products with social benefit. Among Harvard Global Health Institute and Wyss-backed innovations emanating from Edwards’ Idea Translation program is the CellBag, a gourd for carrying water in the special conditions of the developing world, and now used and distributed in South Africa in rural villages, and Soccket, a soccer ball that generates electricity to power cell phones in the developing world. Edwards has won multiple international awards, including being a three-time recipient of the Ebert Prize of the American Pharmaceutical Association for his early work in drug and vaccine delivery.
Says David Edwards, “I am deeply honored to receive this distinction with incredibly inventive colleagues from here at Harvard University and across the country, and appreciative of the unique support of the Wyss Institute and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard.”
Wyss Core Faculty member Jim Collins, Ph.D., is also an NAI fellow. He is also the William F. Warren Distinguished Professor at Boston University, where he leads the Center of Synthetic Biology.
The NAI Fellows–nominated by their peers–will be inducted by Deputy U.S. Commissioner for Patents Andy Faile, from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, during the 3rd Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors, on March 7, 2014, in Alexandria, Va., at the headquarters of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Fellows will also be recognized in The Chronicle of Higher Education and in a future issue of Technology and Innovation–Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors.