Jeff Karp

Jeff Karp, bioengineer and Associate Professor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, illuminates the art and science of adapting medical tools, treatments, and technologies from solutions found in nature.

“Evolution is the best problem solver.” — Jeff Karp


Jeff Karp’s research focuses on stem cell engineering, biomaterials, and medical devices inspired by nature. He has many inventions to his name including slug-inspired tissue glues, parasitic worm inspired microneedles, jellyfish inspired cell-sorting chips, and a gecko-inspired medical tape. Jeff’s other innovations include a novel neonatal skin adhesive and a nanoparticle prophylactic approach to prevent contact dermatitis. He is the co-founder of two startups, Gecko Biomedical and Skintifique. Jeff is an acclaimed mentor and is most proud of the 17 trainees he has launched into faculty careers around the globe. He is Associate Professor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and a principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and member of the Harvard-MIT Health Science & Technology Faculty. He is an inaugural member of the TEDMED Editorial Advisory Board.


Brigham doctor turns to animals for ideas
Weintraub, K. Boston Globe, December 24, 2012.

Parasitic worm inspired adhesive for better skin grafts
Yong, E. Phenomena, April 13, 2014.

Porcupine quill inspired surgical staples
Yong, E. Phenomena, Dec 2012.

Jellyfish inspired DNA tentacles for capturing circulating tumor cells
DNews, Dec 2012.

Quick release medical tape to prevent injuries to premature babies
Trafton, A. MIT News Office, Oct 2012.

Slug inspired surgical glue
Briggs, H. BBC News Health, Jan 2014.


A blood-resistant surgical glue for minimally invasive repair of vessels and heart
Lang N, et al. Sci Transl Med. Jan 2014; 6, 218ra6.

A bio-inspired swellable microneedle adhesive for mechanical interlocking with tissue
Yang SY, et al. Nat Commun. 2013; 4, 1702.

Microstructured barbs on the North American porcupine quill enable easy tissue penetration and difficult removal
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Dec 2012; 109: 21289–21294.

Quick-release medical tape
Laulicht, B. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Nov 2012; 109.

Bioinspired multivalent DNA network for capture and release of cells
Zhao W, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Nov 2012; 109, 19626-19631.

A biodegradable and biocompatible gecko-inspired tissue adhesive
Madhavi, A. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb 2008, 105.

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Bio-Inspired Innovator