Robert Langer

Robert Langer
David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, Sc.D. - MIT.

Professor Langer has recommended books in the following areas:

🟡 Biomedical Engineering


Robert Samuel Langer, Jr. FREng (born August 29, 1948) is an American chemical engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, inventor and one of the twelve Institute Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He was formerly the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and maintains activity in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is also a faculty member of the Harvard–MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Langer holds over 1,400 granted or pending patents. He is one of the world’s most highly cited researchers and his h-index is now 295 with currently over 356,000 citations. He is a widely recognized and cited researcher in biotechnology, especially in the fields of drug delivery systems and tissue engineering.

He is the most cited engineer in history and 4th most cited individual in any field, having authored over 1,500 scientific papers, and is also a prolific entrepreneur, having participated in the founding of over 40 biotechnology companies including Moderna.

Langer’s research laboratory at MIT is the largest biomedical engineering lab in the world; maintaining over $10 million in annual grants and over 100 researchers. He has been awarded numerous leading prizes in recognition of his work.

Background and personal life

Langer was born August 29, 1948, in Albany, New York, US. He is an alumnus of The Milne School and received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in chemical engineering. He earned his Sc.D. in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974. His dissertation was entitled “Enzymatic regeneration of ATP” and completed under the direction of Clark K. Colton. From 1974–1977 he worked as a postdoctoral fellow for cancer researcher Judah Folkman at the Children’s Hospital Boston and at Harvard Medical School. Langer credits Folkman as a fantastic role model. Langer and his wife, Laura, a fellow MIT graduate, have three children.

Contributions to medicine and biotechnology

Langer is widely regarded for his contributions to medicine and biotechnology. He is considered a pioneer of many new technologies, including controlled release systems and transdermal delivery systems, which allow the administration of drugs or extraction of analytes from the body through the skin without needles or other invasive methods.

Langer worked with Judah Folkman at Boston Children’s Hospital to isolate the first angiogenesis inhibitor, a macromolecule to block the spread of blood vessels in tumors. Macromolecules tend to be broken down by digestion and blocked by body tissues if they are injected or inhaled, so finding a delivery system for them is difficult. Langer’s idea was to encapsulate the angiogenesis inhibitor in a noninflammatory synthetic polymer system that could be implanted in the tumor and control the release of the inhibitor. He eventually invented polymer systems that would work. This discovery is considered to lay the foundation for much of today’s drug delivery technology.

Langer also worked with Henry Brem of the Johns Hopkins University Medical School on a drug-delivery system for the treatment of brain cancer, to deliver chemotherapy directly to a tumor site. The wafer implants that he and his teams have designed have become increasingly more sophisticated, and can now deliver multiple drugs, and respond to stimuli. In 2019, he and his team developed and patented a technique whereby microneedle tattoo patches could be used to label people with invisible ink to store medical information subcutaneously. This was presented as a boon to “developing nations” where lack of infrastructure means an absence of medical records. The technology uses a “quantum dot dye that is delivered, along with a vaccine, by a microneedle patch.”

Langer is regarded as the founder of tissue engineering in regenerative medicine. He and the researchers in his lab have made advances in tissue engineering, such as the creation of engineered blood vessels and vascularized engineered muscle tissue. Bioengineered synthetic polymers provide a scaffolding on which new skin, muscle, bone, and entire organs can be grown. With such a substrate in place, victims of serious accidents or birth defects could more easily grow missing tissue. Such polymers can be biocompatible and biodegradable.

Langer is involved in several projects related to diabetes. Alongside Daniel G. Anderson, he has contributed bioengineering work to a project involving teams from MIT, Harvard University and other institutions, to produce an implantable device to treat type 1 diabetes by shielding insulin-producing beta cells from immune system attacks He is also part of a team at MIT that have developed a drug capsule that could be used to deliver oral doses of insulin to people with type 1 diabetes.[29][3

Awards and honors

Langer is the youngest person in history (at 43) to be elected to all three American science academies: the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine. He was also elected as a charter member of National Academy of Inventors. He was elected as an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2010.

Langer has received more than 220 major awards. He is one of three living individuals to have received both the U.S. National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

He has also given 137 named lectures and commencement speeches. Langer has honorary degrees from 36 universities from around the world including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia University.

Founder of various biotech companies

Robert Langer has been involved in the founding of many companies, more than twenty in partnership with the venture capital firm Polaris Partners. Success of these companies and Langer’s contribution has been detailed by Harvard Business Review:

Langer is a member of the Advisory Board of Patient Innovation, a nonprofit, international, multilingual, free venue for patients and caregivers of any disease to share their innovations. He is also a member of the Xconomists, an ad hoc team of editorial advisors for the tech news and media company, Xconomy.

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