Wyss Donates $131 Million Gift Toward Namesake Institute

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss has donated an additional $131 million to his namesake research organization, the Harvard-affiliated Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the University announced Friday.


The gift is Wyss’s third toward the institute, his first being a $125 million dollar donation in 2008, which was the largest gift Harvard had ever received at the time. Wyss gave his second gift, also $125 million, in 2013.

Wyss — a 1965 Harvard Business School graduate — has given more than $400 million in total to Harvard since 2004.

In a statement Thursday, Wyss said people can solve most problems when given the freedom to do so, and contributed the new gift to continue the center’s work.


“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,” Wyss said. “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.”

The Wyss Institute is a consortium including Harvard, Harvard-affiliated hospitals, Boston University, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The Institute aims to design “biologically inspired engineering” to improve healthcare systems and the environment, according to a University press release.

Since its founding, Wyss-affiliated faculty have created projects developing potential cures for cancer, creating a new type of airfoil that may improve lift in aircraft, and researching obscure genetic processes involved in drug and biofuel production.

Slightly over a decade after the Institute was founded, more than 350 staff work with the organization in both Cambridge and Longwood. Its faculty and staff have published more than 2,000 scientific articles, according to the press release.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow said Wyss’s gift will help change the future for many people.

“Hansjörg Wyss has helped to expand what we know and what we can accomplish across a wide range of disciplines,” Bacow said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

Wyss is the founder and chairman of the Wyss Foundation, a charity focused on protecting the world’s natural resources and landscapes. Since its creation in 1998, the foundation has donated more than $450 million to conserve more than 40 million acres of land across the world.

Last year, Wyss announced in a New York Times op-ed the foundation would donate $1 billion over the next several years to conserve at least 30 percent of the planet’s surface over the next decade.

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.