Robert S. Langer completed his undergraduate stidies in Chemical Engineering at Cornell University and obtained his Sc.D in Chemical Engineering at MIT. He joined MIT as Assistant Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry in 1978. Dr. Langer has written over 1,250 articles and also has nearly 1,050 patents worldwide. Dr. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 250 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies.
Dr. Langer has received over 220 major awards. He is one of 5 living individuals to have received both the United States National Medal of Science (2006) and the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011). He also received the 2002 Charles Stark Draper Prize, considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineers, the 2008 Millennium Prize, the world’s largest technology prize, the 2012 Priestley Medal, the highest award of the American Chemical Society, the 2013 Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the 2014 Kyoto Prize. He is the also the only engineer to receive the Gairdner Foundation International Award; 82 recipients of this award have subsequently received a Nobel Prize. Among numerous other awards Langer has received are the Dickson Prize for Science (2002), Heinz Award for Technology, Economy and Employment (2003), the Harvey Prize (2003), the John Fritz Award (2003) (given previously to inventors such as Thomas Edison and Orville Wright), the General Motors Kettering Prize for Cancer Research (2004), the Dan David Prize in Materials Science (2005), the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research (2005), the largest prize in the U.S. for medical research, induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (2006), the Max Planck Research Award (2008), the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research (2008), the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2011) and the Terumo International Prize (2012). In 1998, he received the Lemelson-MIT prize, the world’s largest prize for invention for being “one of history’s most prolific inventors in medicine.” In 1989 Dr. Langer was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1992 he was elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and to the National Academy of Sciences, and in 2012 he was elected to the National Academy of Inventors.
The group’s work is at the interface of biotechnology and materials science. A major focus is the study and development of polymers to deliver drugs, particularly genetically engineered proteins, continuously at controlled rates and for prolonged periods of time. Work in progress in several areas including:
- Investigating the mechanism of release from polymeric delivery systems with concomitant microstructural analysis and mathematical modeling.
- Studying applications of these systems including the development of effective long-term delivery systems for insulin, interferon, growth hormones and vaccines.
- Developing controlled release systems that can be magnetically, ultrasonically, or enzymatically triggered to increase release rates.
- Synthesizing new biodegradable polymeric delivery systems which will ultimately be absorbed by the body.
- Creating new approaches for delivering drugs across complex barriers in the body such as the blood-brain barrier and the skin.
- Synthesizing new biodegradable polymer systems to be used in mammalian cell transplants for engineering new organs (e.g. the liver, cartilage).
The lab’s interest in drug delivery systems has extended to situations where drugs may serve a potentially useful purpose and then cause toxicity. In such cases, it would be useful to have a selective drug or substance removal system. Examples include removal of heparin, bilirubin, and cholesterol. All of these studies involve reactor design, understanding biomaterials with respect to blood interactions, and modeling of in vivo situations.
Finally the group is developing drugs that specifically inhibit the process of neovascularization but do not interfere with existing blood vessels. Neovascularization is critical to the progression of several diseases, including cancer, retinopathy, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. These projects involve biochemical purification and tissue culture studies.