Human Organs-on-Chips is Design of the Year

Micro-devices that replicate the functions of human organs which can be used for drugs and cosmetics testing have won the Design of the Year 2015 competition held by London’s Design Museum.

The Human Organs-on-Chips project was developed by Donald Ingber and Dan Dongeun Huh from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The microchip-like devices can also be used in the treatment of infections and inherited diseases.

“The team of scientists that produced this remarkable object don’t come from a conventional design background. but what they have done is clearly a brilliant piece of design,” said Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic.

“They identified a serious problem; how do we predict how human cells will behave, and they solved it with elegance and economy of means, putting technology from apparently unrelated fields to work in new ways. They have perhaps unintentional created something that for a lay man seems to symbolise the essence of life and also happens to be beautiful to look at.”

Human Organs-on-Chips, which were nominated in the product category for the awards, triumphed over the shortlisted projects from the other five award categories: fashion, digital, architecture, graphics and transport.

These included Thomas Tait’s Autumn Winter 2013 fashion collection, a proposal for clearing waste plastic from the oceans, a concrete building for a Chilean university, a campaign to promote misshapen fruit and vegetables, and Google’s self-driving car.

The shortlist and overall winner were chosen by a jury made up of fashion writer and stylist Hilary Alexander, ÉCAL director Alexis Georgacopoulos, architect Farshid Moussavi, Land Rover design director Richard Woolley and jury chair, artist Anish Kapoor, who called Human Organs-on-Chips “a really big idea”.

“It incorporates technology and design to eliminate the problem of having to use animals to test a product,”

All 76 of this year’s nominated projects are on show as part of an exhibition designed by Benjamin Hubert at the Design Museum, which runs until 31 August 2015. The winner of a visitors’ vote will also be announced at the end of the exhibition.

Last year’s Design of the Year award was controversially won by Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan. Other previous winners from the award’s eight-year history have included the UK’s website, the energy-saving Plumen 001 lightbulb and the London 2012 Olympic Torch.