Harvard’s Largest Gift Doubles With Second Wyss Donation

Hansjoerg Wyss, the Swiss philanthropist who is among the world’s wealthiest people, is making a second $125 million donation to Harvard University to fund a bioengineering institute.

Wyss gave an initial $125 million in 2008, the largest gift in Harvard’s history, to start the Hansjoerg Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, which has partnerships with other schools and medical facilities in the Boston area. Among its research projects is a robotic bee that can be used in search and rescue missions or to replace dying bee populations, the institute said today in a statement.

“We wanted to create a place where the innovation and imagination of the world’s best minds could work beyond disciplinary boundaries to deliver life-changing medicines and technologies that are inspired by nature,” Wyss said in the statement.

Wyss helped build the Swiss medical device company Synthes, now owned by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), into the world’s largest maker of bone fracture and trauma treatment devices. He has an estimated net worth of $12.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and lives in Wyoming. A foundation he started works to protect wilderness in the U.S.

The philanthropist received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1965, and in 2004 donated $25 million to bolster the school’s doctoral programs. Harvard President Drew Faust called Wyss “extraordinarily generous.”

“This additional gift will enable the institute’s continued success and create new opportunities to improve people’s lives and the world in which we live,” Faust said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael McDonald in Boston at mmcdonald10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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