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Dr. Robert Langer
1998 Lemelson-MIT Prize Winner

Dr. Robert Langer
Photo by Andrew Fingland

"A lot of times somebody will tell you that your idea, or your invention, can't be done. I think that's very rarely true. If you believe in yourself and if you really work hard and stick to it, I believe there is very little that is impossible."

Dr. Robert Langer was awarded the 1998 Lemelson-MIT Prize for being one of history's most prolific inventors in medicine. His breakthroughs in controlled drug delivery have prolonged lives and eased the suffering of millions.

A trailblazer in biomaterials, Langer has evolved as the father of tissue engineering, with innovations that have been used in such areas as drug delivery systems, vaccines, tissue repair, diagnostics, innovative waste disposal technologies and novel therapeutics.

Langer's research into polymers led to the slow release of micro-encapsulated doses of ionic drugs, peptides and other large molecule drugs. He is also credited with the development of many medicinal biodegradable polymers, particularly Gliadel®, a polymer-based treatment that dissolves over time to deliver chemotherapy to tumor sites in brain cancer patients.

In 1999, Langer created the pharmacy on a chip, an implantable silicon chip that can determine and control the release of measured doses of medicine and potentially replace medicinal injections and ingesting pills in the future.

Langer and his team unveiled biorubber in 2002—a polymer with amazing elasticity for constructing artificial organs.

Currently the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, Langer has served as an inspiration and mentor to many MIT graduate students and post-docs. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University (1970) and his Sc.D. in Chemical Engineering from MIT (1974), plus three honorary doctorates. Langer is the only active member of all three United States National Academies and has garnered over 80 awards and honors, including the $500,000 Charles Stark Draper Prize (2002) and the Gairdner Foundation International Award (1996). He was recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the 25 most important individuals in biotechnology in the world (1999), and Time Magazine has revered him as one of the 100 most important people in America (2001). To date, Langer has amassed 380 patents in the fields of biomedical and chemical engineering, biomaterials and controlled drug delivery … and it all began with a Gilbert Chemistry set he received as a young boy.

In 2006, Langer co-foundered T2 Biosystems, a company that plans to revolutionize diagnostic medicine by providing immediate and accurate testing for nearly any health condition, in nearly any setting.

Current Update:
The February 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details a waterproof adhesive bandage that Langer led a team of scientists to invent. Inspired by gecko lizards, this bandage has potential to be included as an operating room tool for sealing surgical wounds or internal injuries.

Web Links:
Langer Lab


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