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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

35 Innovators Under 35

Bryan Laulicht, 31

Finding an adhesive that protects vulnerable skin

Harvard University and MIT

Laulicht holds a prototype of his high-stick, easy-release bandage, inspired by the gecko's foot.

Photograph by Christopher Churchill

Pulling medical tape off newborn babies in hospitals can be extremely painful and even potentially dangerous. To find something safer, Bryan Laulicht, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and MIT, tested dozens of adhesive materials commonly used in medicine. He soon discovered that the adhesives fell into two groups: those that stuck securely and those that could be removed painlessly. None of them met both criteria.

But Laulicht knew that evolution had long since solved the problem. The feet of the gecko, for example, sport pads that adhere strongly to surfaces for climbing, but when rotated in a certain way, the pads release easily so the animal can run. Convinced that an artificial material ought to be able to do the same, ­Laulicht hunted for a way to fabricate it.

Using existing adhesives and a new quick-release backing layer, Laulicht developed a dry adhesive, suitable for bandages and medical tape, that was inspired by the gecko’s feet. Though he won’t give more details before the results are published, he says that he and colleagues are gearing up to test his creation on humans.

Newborns are the immediate intended beneficiaries of the adhesive technology, but Laulicht says elderly patients and others with sensitive or injured skin need it, too. Because the adhesive is based mostly on materials found in existing types of tape, he hopes his bandage will find its way to the clinic quickly.

Courtney Humphries

2012 TR35 Winners

Ryan Bailey

Shining a light on faster, cheaper, more accurate medical tests

Ken Endo (video)

Adding spring to robotic limbs by doing away with some of the motors

Christina Fan (video)

Prenatal testing for genetic conditions from a sample of the mother’s blood

Abraham Flaxman (video)

Combining different types of data in new ways in order to track and slow the spread of disease in developing countries

Bryan Laulicht (video)

Finding an adhesive that protects vulnerable skin

Juan Sebastián Osorio (video)

Monitors specially designed for premature infants help detect breathing problems

Weian Zhao (video)

Spying on cells in their native habitat to develop better tests and drugs

See This Years' Winners

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