35 Innovators Under 35
Bryan Laulicht, 31
Finding an adhesive that protects vulnerable skin
Harvard University and MIT
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.