Asst. Prof. Sihong Wang receives prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award

The National Institutes of Health today announced it has selected Sihong Wang, assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) and researcher at Argonne National Laboratory, to receive the prestigious 2022 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.

The award is given to exceptionally creative early-career scientists proposing high-risk, high-impact research. Prof. Wang will receive nearly $2.5 million in total funding over five years to develop biomedical implants that are more compatible with the human immune system.

“I am extremely honored and thrilled to receive this award,” said Wang. “It reflects the very positive concurrence from the broad biomedical community on the importance and potential impact of our research. I believe we will not only generate new fundamental understandings but also create a new class of electronic materials that will greatly improve the compatibility of implantable devices to human bodies.”

Biomedical implants have for decades been critical in treating a wide range of serious conditions, from heart attack to diabetes. However, the majority of implants have a limited operating lifespan because of the body’s natural defenses against foreign objects, a reaction called the “foreign-body response.”

Wang and his team seek to develop immunocompatible electronic polymers and devices — implantable bioelectronic devices that do not trigger the foreign-body response. Already, they have made breakthroughs in bio-compatible electronics, including a flexible, stretchable computing chip that processes information by mimicking the human brain.

Wang’s broader work focuses on the fundamental study and development of a new class of polymeric materials and devices for future generations electronics that can be merged with human bodies and other biological systems as bioimplants or wearables.

The NIH Director’s New Innovator’s Award is part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, created through the NIH’s Common Fund. The program catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting highly innovative research proposals that, due to their inherent risk, may struggle in the traditional peer-review process despite their transformative potential. Researchers are encouraged to think “outside the box” and pursue trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH’s mission to advance knowledge and enhance health.