HALF MILLION DOLLAR LEMELSON-MIT PRIZE
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNER HONORED
Robert Langer Wins Lemelson-MIT Prize;
Jacob Rabinow Honored with Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award
NEW YORK, NY -- (April 15, 1998) - Robert S. Langer of Newton,
MA, an inventor who holds 320 patents (alone or with others) and
a pioneer in biomedical and chemical engineering, has been named
the winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for 1998, the world's
single largest cash prize for American invention and innovation.
Langer, whose discoveries are at the heart of the emerging technology
of tissue engineering and the multi-billion dollar controlled drug
delivery industry, was named the winner in New York City after an
intensive, year-long process by the Lemelson-MIT Awards Program
and three review panels of leading experts independent of
MIT - from a range of scientific, engineering and medical disciplines
in academia and industry. A professor at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology who has done research there and at the Children's
Hospital in Boston for more than 20 years, Langer's studies and
findings have revolutionized biomaterials research and technology.
The Awards Program also announced the honoree of its Lifetime Achievement
Award for a distinguished career in innovation. In the course of
80 years of inventing, Jacob Rabinow of Bethesda, MD has earned
229 patents for military, industrial, computer and electrical devices.
Rabinow's research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) was important in the development of the proximity fuse and
safety mechanisms for missiles. His technological firsts include
the first optical character recognition machine, or reading machine,
to use the "Best Match" principle to read broken or defaced characters,
and the first attempt to store computer memory on magnetic discs
instead of tapes (the "Notched Disc" magnetic memory machine).
Both winners will receive an interactive trophy, designed by kinetic
sculptor Arthur Ganson, and specifically created for the Program.
Langer and Rabinow will be honored the evening of April 16 at a
special ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum
of American History in Washington, D.C.
"These winners represent American ingenuity at its best," said
Professor Lester C. Thurow, economist, author and chairman of the
Lemelson-MIT Prize Board. "Their passion and interest in invention
has dramatically saved and improved lives while advancing numerous
"It gives me great satisfaction to know that the research that
my laboratory has done has led to improvements in people's lives,
and has given hope to patients in cases where there had been very
little hope before," said Langer. "Inventions can and have helped
people in major ways and have changed the world. A lot of times
conventional wisdom would dictate that your idea, or your invention,
is not possible. It is important to realize that there is very little
that is truly impossible."
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As a biomedical engineer whose major focus is biomaterials, Langer
specializes in controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering.
His groundbreaking research in the development of new systems for
controlled delivery of pharmaceuticals, specifically his work with
polymers, has led to a variety of novel drug delivery systems including
a treatment for brain cancer developed with Dr. Henry Brem of Johns
Hopkins University Medical School. This is the first FDA-approved
treatment for brain cancer in 20 years and the first polymer-based
treatment to deliver chemotherapy directly to the tumor site.
A pioneer in the field of tissue engineering, Langer discovered,
with surgeon Jay Vacanti, that synthetic polymers could be seeded
with mammalian cells to produce replacement tissue or organs. These
discoveries formed a basis for creating new tissues such as artificial
skin for burn victims, or cartilage and other tissue for patients
suffering from tissue loss or organ failure. Tissue loss and organ
failure cost the nation more than $500 billion in healthcare costs
"Langer's breadth of activities are quite impressive. He has taken
his own, basic scientific work and created an incredible range of
practical applications, such as artificial skin, bone, and cartilage,
and implantable drug delivery systems, from which society will clearly
benefit," said Dr. William M. Cummings, Manager of International
Fuels Issues for Texaco, and one of the reviewers of this year's
Langer's research has been used in such areas as drug delivery
systems, vaccines, diagnostics, innovative waste disposal technologies,
novel therapeutics, and tissue repair. In 1997, sales of advanced
drug delivery systems in the US. were approximately $14 billion.
A prolific inventor, Rabinow's achievements display an enormous
range throughout his 80 year career, including ordnance, sound reproduction,
photography, computer technology, mechanical devices, optical products,
electronic systems, horology (clocks and watches), mail sorters,
reading machines, and automobile devices. From letter sorting to
reading checks, credit slips and income tax forms, Rabinow's creations
have been incorporated into the lives of most Americans. His leading
inventions are the automatic letter-sorting machine used by the
U.S. Postal Service, the automatic regulation of clocks and watches
(formerly used in all American automobiles manufactured between
1954 and 1974), the magnetic particle clutch used in cars and airplanes,
card punches and card sorting machines, and the straight-line phonograph,
manufactured by Harmon Kardon Corp., Sony, and Bang & Olufsen, among
others. Although retired, he continues to influence the direction
of invention as a consultant at the National Institute of Standards
and Technology, where he worked as an inventor for 33 years and
which holds the licenses for the patents he created while there.
"I invent because it is fun and I enjoy the challenge," explains
Rabinow. "Invention is an art form and should be supported as such.
It's most important for young people to find the work they love,
and inventors love what they do. As a nation, we should encourage
invention by motivating potential inventors with programs such as
the Lemelson-MIT Awards."
"Langer's and Rabinow's achievements have transformed and enriched
our daily lives, while serving as an inspiration to young inventors,"
said Dorothy Lemelson, Co-founder, The Lemelson Foundation. "Their
contributions in invention and in the businesses that have benefited
from them, exemplifies the ideals of the Lemelson Foundation and
the Lemelson-MIT Awards Program."
The nation's single largest prize for invention and innovation,
the Lemelson-MIT Prize annually honors Americans who demonstrate
excellence in creativity, invention and/or innovation from among
the fields of medicine and health care; energy and environment;
telecommunications and computing; and consumer products, durable
goods and industrial products. The late independent inventor, Jerome
H. Lemelson (1923-1997) and his wife, Dorothy, established the Lemelson-MIT
Awards Program at MIT in 1994 to promote positive role models for
young people and for all aspiring inventors. The Program is administered
by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the nation's
leader in patents awarded a single university on behalf of
the Lemelson National Program. For more information please contact
Shannon Peavey at (617) 253-3352.
Read more about Robert Langer
and Jacob Rabinow.
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