Harvard University announced today the latest gift of $350 million from Hansjörg Wyss, M.B.A. ’65, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, to support the continued mission of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and ensure that it will continue to make a positive impact in the world for many years to come. The institute seeks to transform health care and the environment by developing innovative technologies that emulate the way nature builds and accelerating the translation of those technologies into products through the formation of startups and corporate partnerships. This gift builds upon Wyss’ initial $125 million gift, which enabled the founding of the institute, and his subsequent gifts of $125 million in 2013 and $131 million in 2019 for the institute to advance its pioneering work. Wyss’ generosity over many years has supported not only the institute but also numerous Schools across Harvard, including significant support for the doctoral program as well as fellowships for the social enterprise initiative and other significant gifts to Harvard Business School.
“Since its founding 13 years ago, the Wyss Institute has been devoted to breaking down silos within and between academia and industry,” said Harvard University President Larry Bacow. “That aspiration, expressed passionately and persistently by Hansjörg Wyss, has yielded a unique model of collaborative and cross-disciplinary research, as well as disruptive innovations that are improving and savings lives. We are extraordinarily grateful not only because Hansjörg is one of Harvard’s most generous supporters, but also because he inspires our community with his curiosity, imagination, and vision. They are a constant spur for the institute’s incredibly talented faculty and staff — and a boon to humanity.”
“I have been tremendously proud to watch the Wyss Institute grow into the remarkable engine for innovation and entrepreneurship that it has become today, and I want to recognize and congratulate the institute’s leadership, entire faculty, and staff for working so tirelessly to realize my initial vision of working together across disciplines to solve some of the greatest challenges that we face as a society,” Wyss said. “It has been very gratifying to see the numerous advances in science and technology that have been achieved since the institute was founded. I hope others will see what this team has accomplished in such a short time and join me in helping to build this incredible enterprise and expand its impact even further in the years to come.”
Hansjörg Wyss, entrepreneur and philanthropist, gives fourth major gift to support the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Credit: Wyss Foundation
In its relatively short existence, the Wyss Institute has developed an unprecedented number of groundbreaking bioinspired technologies that address major problems in health care and sustainability, which has resulted in an enormous impact on the broader Boston-Cambridge ecosystem and the entire world. High-value therapeutics, diagnostics, med-tech materials and devices, and novel sustainability technologies are being developed by some of the world’s most innovative faculty, students, fellows, and highly dedicated staff members with past industrial experience who collaborate across disciplines and with the institute’s outside partners in industry, academia, and the venture capital world.
“The Wyss Institute has brought together scientists, clinicians, business innovators, and other visionaries to develop and commercialize technologies that benefit public health and protect our planet,” said Alan M. Garber, Harvard University provost and Wyss Institute Board of Directors chair. “These collaborations within Harvard and with collaborating hospitals, universities, and industry have been key to the institute’s ability to accelerate the development and adoption of novel technologies. We are truly grateful to Mr. Wyss for his continued generosity and for his trust in Harvard to be the steward of his vision.”
Over the past 13 years since its founding, the Wyss Institute’s support for its 11 core and 15 associate faculty and their teams of young scientists and engineers has led to impressive productivity, with almost 4,000 patent filings, more than 100 licensing agreements, and 50 startups, as well as numerous industry collaborations. Wyss Institute scientists and engineers work in collaboration with colleagues across Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, Arts & Sciences, and Design, as well as with 12 collaborating academic institutions and affiliated hospitals in the Boston-Cambridge ecosystem and across the globe.
“The Wyss Institute has brought together scientists, clinicians, business innovators, and other visionaries to develop and commercialize technologies that benefit public health and protect our planet.”
— Alan M. Garber, Harvard University provost
In the spring of 2023, the institute is moving its 375 full-time staff to a new headquarters located at 201 Brookline Ave. in Boston, blocks away from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area. In addition to their technology commercialization efforts, Wyss Institute faculty and staff have published more than 2,700 scientific articles, with an average of one paper in the breakthrough journals Science or Nature per month, since 2009.
“I have been tremendously proud of the work that we have accomplished at the Wyss Institute since its inception and have been both humbled and honored by Hansjörg Wyss entrusting us with realizing his vision of building a translational institution that never existed before within the walls of academia. His unwavering support for our collective vision has enabled us to experiment and take the type of risks necessary to bring about disruptive advances and positively impact the world in the near term, which was our goal from the beginning,” said Don Ingber, the institute’s founding director and core faculty member, who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Bioinspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Mr. Wyss’ generosity will allow us to continue to explore, evolve, and grow in new ways so that we always remain at the forefront, and pave the way for generations to come.”
A native of Switzerland, Wyss is a philanthropist dedicated to helping save the world’s remaining wild places and to protecting and empowering the most vulnerable in society, as well as encouraging breakthroughs in medicine and science. His philanthropy is made possible by his success in starting and growing a medical research and design company, Pennsylvania-based Synthes USA, whose products have helped millions of patients recover from skeletal and soft-tissue trauma and injuries.