By providing assistive force at precisely timed intervals, soft exosuits can help people expend less energy when walking or running, reduce fatigue and strain injuries in factory workers, and help stroke patients learn to walk again. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University last week said it received a donation of $131 million, the latest gift from its founding entrepreneur and namesake, Hansjörg Wyss.
Wyss Institute researchers have drawn on design principles from nature to solve some of the world’s most complex challenges in healthcare and the environment. It is also a pioneer in robotics and commercialization as seen in these examples:
- Soft Robotics Inc. has licensed actuator technology from the Wyss Institute. In combination with its own patented technology, the company has developed flexible grippers used in packaging, order fulfillment, and food handling.
- The HAMR-E robot uses electroadhesion to climb and could inspect complex machinery such as jet engines.
- The Robot Report named the Wyss Institute as one of the top 10 organizations to watch in 2019.
- Working as a swarm, Romu mobile robots could create erosion barriers.
- ReWalk Robotics worked with the institute on the soft ReStore exosuit, which recently received CE Mark clearance.
- Pistons made with soft materials can provide greater force and efficiency for a variety of applications.
In addition, the Wyss Institute has recently developed the following technologies applicable to medical devices:
- Wound dressings that can speed up healing and improve tissue regeneration using a protein commonly found in plants and animals.
- An additive manufacturing technique for soft electronics called hybrid 3D printing.
- A valve-shaped nanofiber network that replicates the mechanical and chemical properties of a native heart valve extracellular matrix.
- A method to program microbial cells into living devices that can produce drugs, fine chemicals and biofuels and detect disease-causing agents.
Hansjörg Wyss has given a third major gift to support the Wyss Institute’s mission to develop and commercialize world-changing technologies. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
“Hansjörg Wyss has helped to expand what we know and what we can accomplish across a wide range of disciplines,” stated Harvard University President Larry Bacow. “The advances that his generosity has enabled will change the future for countless people. His third gift to support the work of the Wyss Institute will ensure the continued success of our extraordinarily talented faculty and staff, as well as create new opportunities for collaboration and growth. We are deeply grateful for his support.”
Wyss has given the university more than $400 million over many years, including $125 million in 2009 to establish the institute and a second gift in 2013 to continue its support.
“When talented, creative people are given the freedom to work together across disciplines, there are few problems they cannot solve,” Wyss said. “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.”
Wyss’s support for the Institute’s unique model — an interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists and engineers from disparate fields along with expert staff with industrial experience — has led to more than 2,600 patent filings, 53 licensing agreements, 29 startups, and numerous industry collaborations, according to Harvard.