The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has announced a $131 million gift from its founder, Harvard alumnus Hansjörg Wyss (MBA, '65).
Awarded through the Wyss Foundation, the gift will support ongoing efforts at the institute, which draws inspiration from nature's design principles and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists, engineers, and industry experts. A native of Switzerland, Wyss established the institute with a gift of $125 million in 2009 and supported it with a second gift in 2013. In all, Wyss' giving to Harvard over the years totals more than $400 million.
Over the past decade, the institute has produced or launched twenty-six hundred patent filings, two thousand scientific articles, fifty-three licensing agreements, and twenty-nine startups. Breakthrough technologies enabled by the institute include a vaccine for melanoma patients that uses components derived from a patient's cancer cells to activate the body's immune system to destroy cancer cells elsewhere in the body; clear, flexible, microfluidic chips that can be seeded with live human cells to reproduce the function of human organs ex vivo; an easy-to-read biology-enabled molecular diagnostic tool that does not require scientific instruments and has the potential to be used in settings with few resources; and soft, wearable "exosuits" that help stroke and multiple sclerosis patients in walking.
"When talented, creative people are given the freedom to work together across disciplines, there are few problems they cannot solve," said Wyss. "In the last decade, the Wyss Institute has made breakthrough after breakthrough to improve medicine and to apply the latest science to the betterment of peoples' lives. I am happy to continue my support for the Wyss Institute and Harvard and look forward to seeing what the institute discovers and creates in the years ahead."