The Globe Magazine’s 2015 Game Changers list “highlights people, businesses, movements, and, yes, robots pushing the limits of innovation.” Among this year’s honorees are numerous MIT faculty and alumni who are changing the game in fields ranging from biotechnology to energy efficiency:
Flagship Ventures – Noubar Afeyan PhD ’87
Afeyan is the founder, senior managing partner, and CEO of Flagship Ventures, a venture capital firm that not only finances young companies, but also founds them. Since 2000, Flagship has founded 30 companies and invested in another 50, all in the fields of life science and sustainable energy. As a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Afeyan imparts his wisdom to the next generation of innovators.
Smarter in the City – Gilad Rosenzweig MCP ’13
This technology accelerator offers opportunities for entrepreneurs from underrepresented minorities to develop their high-tech ideas. Smarter in the City was founded by Rosenzweig and offers participants workspace, mentoring, and networking opportunities in addition to seed funding.
Biogen – Institute Professor Phillip Sharp
Biogen, the largest Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, was cofounded by Professor Sharp. For more than 30 years, the company has pioneered the development and delivery of transformative therapies for serious illnesses.
Entrega Bio – Institute Professor Robert Langer ScD ’74
Entrega Bio aims to make diagnosing and managing chronic health conditions easier by developing new approaches to drug delivery. The company is collaborating with GoogleX to engineer magnetic nanoparticles that could help detect cancer earlier.
Eversource – partnership with MIT
Energy utility Eversource first partnered with MIT in 2010 on a project to cut energy consumption across campus. The Institute has saved at least 45 million kilowatt-hours of electricity by installing new lighting, refrigerators, and heating systems. Eversource plans to replicate this work at other large-scale efficiency projects.
WiTricity – Physics Professor John Joannopoulos, Andre Kurs SM ’07, PhD ’11
WiTricity wants to change the way you charge your mobile phone. Its technology can transfer electricity through the air, allowing you to charge your phone without wires or other contact with electronics. It has licensed its technology to Intel and to Toyota, which plans to roll out wireless charging of electric vehicles in 2016.
Altaeros Energies – Ben Glass ’07, SM ’10, Adam Rein MBA ’10
The world’s first commercial airborne wind turbine company was spun out of MIT in 2010. Its helium-filled windmills generate two-to-three times the amount of energy as tower turbines, and could be used to produce electricity in remote areas or in disaster-relief efforts.
Jibo Inc. – Professor Cynthia Breazeal SM ’93, ScD ’00
A pioneer of social robotics and director of the MIT Media Lab Personal Robots Group, Breazeal has created some of the world’s most famous humanoid robots, including Jibo, billed as the “world’s first family robot.” Jibo can take videos, read emails to you while you multi-task, and even read bedtime stories to the little ones. The first robots will ship in late 2015.
Soft Robotics – technical talent from MIT alums
Soft Robotics designs and builds gripper systems that can manipulate items of varying size, shape, and weight with a single device. The soft devices are capable handling delicate food items like peaches, allow businesses to automate warehouse logistics, and can also perform highly structured tasks.
Empire Robotics – technical talent from MIT alums
The VERSABALL developed by Empire is a new type of soft robot. This beanbag-like gripper can securely—yet softly—grasp and manipulate a wide array of objects, no matter what their shape.
LiquiGlide – J. David Smith SM ’11, Associate Professor Kripa Varanasi SM ’02, PhD ’04
Led by CEO Smith, LiquiGlide got its start in the mechanical engineering research lab Varanasi with the development of a technology for creating and applying “liquid-impregnated” (i.e., permanently wet), durable, and nontoxic coatings to all kinds of surfaces. The company recently signed a licensing agreement with Elmer’s Glue.
MarkForged – Greg Mark ’03, SM ’05
The company’s 3-D printer boasts the ability to produce objects “with the strength of aluminum” by reinforcing them with Kevlar, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. CEO Greg Mark believes the MarkForged will eventually allow users to print their own boats or car bodies.
Zipcar – Robin Chase SM ’86
Advertising “wheels when you want them,” Zipcar has changed the way we drive with its rent-by-the hour model. Cofounded by Robin Chase ’86 in Cambridge, MA, Zipcar can now be found in cities around the world.
Read about all 51 of this year’s honorees at the Boston Globe.