June 7, 2019 / Deniz Cam, Forbes Staff
On Friday, Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss announced a $131 million gift to Harvard University through his private foundation, according to a statement by the institution. The gift will go to the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, which was established following a $125 million gift Wyss made to Harvard in 2009. Altogether Wyss, whose charitable foundations have assets of more than $2 billion, will have given $400 million to the institute and Harvard. The pledged gift will be paid out over several years.
The announcement comes less than a year after Wyss, who Forbes estimates is worth $6 billion, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times pledging to donate $1 billion to conservation efforts around the world over the next ten years.
“When talented, creative people are given the freedom to work together across disciplines, there are few problems they cannot solve,” Wyss said in a statement. “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.”
Founded a decade ago, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering focuses on finding innovative and profitable solutions to challenges in environment and healthcare. The institute says it has filed for 2,600 patents, made 53 licensing agreements and helped launch 29 startups since 2009, thanks to Wyss’ donations. Some of the most significant work of the institute include a cancer vaccine that was licensed by the pharmaceutical giant Novartis in 2018 and is currently in human clinical trials, a high-precision molecular diagnostics sensor and a wearable “exoskeleton” for stroke patients in rehabilitation.