Donald Ingber and Dan Dongeun Huh – of Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering – have won the 2015 Design Museum Design of the Year Award, for their ‘Organs-on-Chips’ medical microdevices.
The duo’s entry comprises a transparent memory-stick-sized microchip lined with living human cells, which mimic the micro-architecture and functions of whole organs such as the lung, heart and intestine. The eventual aim is to produce ten separate organ chips, which can be linked to accurately mimic the physiology of a whole human body.
The device has the potential to advance personalised medicine, accelerate drug discovery and decrease development costs, while also providing a viable alternative to traditional animal testing. As a bonus, the chip's futurist design is as visually arresting as it is ascetically practical.
It’s the first time a medical design has won the award – which has been running for eight years – and was selected from over 70 nominated works by a jury including Anish Kapoor, architect and Harvard University professor Farshid Moussavi, and fashion journalist Hilary Alexander.
‘One of the most important things about the Design of the Year award is the chance that it gives the museum to explore new territory,' says Deyan Sudjic, the Design Museum’s director. 'The team of scientists that produced this remarkable object don’t come from a conventional design background. But what they have done is clearly a brilliant piece of design.'
Ingber and Dongeun Huh were nominated for the award by Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator of Architecture and Design, and director of R&D. The project, she explains, is ‘the epitome of design innovation… [an] elegantly beautiful form, arresting concept and pioneering application’.