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Wyss Institute’s Lung-on-a-Chip Named Finalist for 2011 INDEX: Design for Life Award

Prestigious international competition recognizes designs with most potential to improve lives

BOSTON, June 9, 2011 — The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced today that its lung-on-a-chip microdevice, which could help replace animal testing and accelerate the arrival of promising and affordable new drugs on the market, has been named a finalist for a 2011 INDEX: Design for Life Award. It was one of just 61 finalists selected by an international jury from a total of 966 nominations.

Combining microfabrication techniques with modern tissue engineering, lung-on-a-chip offers a new in vitro approach to drug screening by mimicking the complicated mechanical and biochemical behaviors of a human lung.

INDEX Awards honor designs from around the world that have the most potential to improve the lives of people everywhere. Given biennially in the categories of body, home, work, play, and community, the INDEX awards are the largest monetary design prizes in the world, with each winner receiving 100,000 Euros.

The Lung-on-a-Chip is based on technology developed by Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. and Wyss Technology Development Fellow Dan Dongeun Huh. It combines microfabrication techniques from the computer industry with modern tissue engineering approaches and living human cells to create a living, breathing lung on a clear, flexible microchip the size of a computer memory stick. The simple device recapitulates human lung responses to infection, inflammation, and environmental toxins.

By mimicking these complex behaviors, the Lung-on-a-Chip offers a new approach to accurately and immediately test the safety and efficacy of new drug compounds, while also assessing the toxicity of the airborne nanoparticles that appear today in a range of consumer goods, as well as in air and water pollution.

As an alternative to current animal testing models, which are costly, time consuming, and unreliable, the Lung-on-a-Chip could dramatically accelerate the drug development process, while also enhancing our understanding of the toxic effects of airborne pollutants, which have so far been difficult to gauge. It is a finalist in the body category, which includes medical devices, prosthetics, and designs for accessing potable water.

Wyss Institute Human Lung-on-a-Chip

“We are honored to have such a visionary organization recognize our work as having the potential to improve people’s lives–as that is certainly the core goal of our institute,” said Ingber. “We want to help create a world where people everywhere can access promising new drugs at affordable prices in time to save their lives and where people will not be exposed to harmful contaminants in the air they breathe.”

INDEX: Design for Life Award winners will be announced September 2, 2011 at a ceremony in the Copenhagen opera house. All the finalists also will be displayed in the world-touring INDEX: Award 2011 Exhibition, premiering in Copenhagen in September.

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