Catalyzing the Next Technology Wave: Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Wyss Institute

Friday, April 14, 2017 -
2:00pm to 3:00pm
CALIT2 Auditorium - Atkinson Hall
Donald E. Ingber

Skalak Memorial Lecture

Founding Director, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology, Harvard Medical School & Boston Children’s Hospital

Professor of Bioengineering, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

Catalyzing the Next Technology Wave: Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Wyss Institute


The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University that I lead was founded in 2009 to develop new engineering innovations by emulating the way nature builds. Over the past 8 years, the Institute has pioneered a new model for innovation, trans-disciplinary collaboration and technology translation, while developing an exciting pipeline of new bioinspired technologies, including two that have entered human clinical trials. A few examples include therapeutic cancer vaccines that function as artificial lymph nodes; nanotherapeutics that target to vascular occlusion sites like artificial platelets; self-assembling DNA-based nanorobots that can be programmed to kill tumor cells; and a biospleen device that cleanses blood of pathogens and toxins in septic patients. In addition to summarizing these developments, I will highlight recent advances my team has made in the engineering of microfluidic “Organs-on-Chips”—microchips lined by living human cells created with microfabrication techniques that recapitulate organ-level structure and functions as a way to replace animal testing for drug development and mechanistic discovery. I will review recent advances we have made in the engineering of multiple organ chips, including lung, gut, kidney, liver and bone marrow chips. I will also describe our ongoing efforts to integrate these organ chips into a ‘human body-on-chips’, and to engineer an automated instrument for real-time analysis of cellular responses to pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and toxins. This new bioinspired technology wave represents a major paradigm shift in medicine, and the novel organizational structure of the Institute offers an entirely new way to translate discoveries into breakthrough products in the academic setting.


Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., is the Founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital, and Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He received his B.A., M.A., M.Phil., M.D. and Ph.D. from Yale University.

Ingber is a pioneer in the field of biologically inspired engineering, and at the Wyss Institute, he currently leads a multifaceted effort to develop breakthrough bioinspired technologies to advance healthcare and to improve sustainability. His work has led to major advances in mechanobiology, tumor angiogenesis, tissue engineering, systems biology, nanobiotechnology and translational medicine. Through his work, Ingber also has helped to break down boundaries between science, art and design.

Ingber has authored more than 400 publications and 135 patents, founded 5 companies, and been a guest speaker at more than 475 events internationally. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was named one of the Top 20 Translational Researchers world-wide in 2012 (Nature Biotechnology), a Leading Global Thinker of 2015 (Foreign Policy magazine), and has received numerous other honors in a broad range of disciplines, including the Robert A. Pritzker Award and the Shu Chien Award (Biomedical Engineering Society), the Rous Whipple Award (American Society for Investigative Pathology), the Lifetime Achievement Award (Society of In Vitro Biology), the Leading Edge Award (Society of Toxicology), Founders Award (Biophysical Society) and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Innovator Award.

Some of Ingber’s most recently developed technologies include an anticoagulant surface coating for medical devices that replaces the need for dangerous blood-thinning drugs; a dialysis-like sepsis therapeutic device that clears blood of pathogens and inflammatory toxins; a shear stress-activated nanotherapeutic that targets clot-busting drugs to sites of vascular occlusion; and Human Organs-on-Chips created with microchip manufacturing methods and lined by living human cells, which are being used to replace animal testing as a more accurate and affordable in vitro platform for drug development and personalized medicine. In 2015, Ingber’s Organs-on-Chips technology was named Design of the Year by the London Design Museum and was also acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City for its permanent design collection. His Organs-on-Chips were also named one of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016 by the World Economic Forum.