Robert S. Langer, Sc.D.
Kenneth J. Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Biomaterials and How They Will Change Our Lives”

Advances in drug delivery and tissue engineering are revolutionizing medical therapies. New drug delivery technologies including novel polymers and intelligent microchips promise to create new treatments for cancer, heart disease, and many other illnesses. By combining mammalian cells with synthetic polymers, new approaches for engineering tissues are being developed that may someday help repair tissues for patients with burns, damaged cartilage, paralysis, and vascular disease.

Robert S. Langer has written 725 articles and 420 abstracts. He also has nearly 500 issued or pending patents worldwide, one of which was cited as the outstanding patent in Massachusetts in 1988 and one of 20 outstanding patents in the United States. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 100 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology, and medical device companies; a number of these companies were launched on the basis of these patent licenses. He served as a member of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s SCIENCE Board, the FDA’s highest advisory board, from 1995-2002, and as its chairman from 1999-2002.

Langer has received over 100 major awards. In 2002, he received the $500,000 Charles Stark Draper Prize, considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineers and the world’s most prestigious engineering prize, from the National Academy of Engineering. He is also the only engineer to receive the Gairdner Foundation International Award; 59 recipients of this award have subsequently received a Nobel Prize. In 1998, he received the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize, the world’s largest prize for invention for being “one of history’s most prolific inventors in medicine.” In 1989 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. He is one of very few people ever elected to all three United States national academies and the youngest in history (at age 43) ever to receive this distinction.

Forbes Magazine (1999) and Bio World (1990) named Langer as one of the 25 most important individuals in biotechnology in the world. Discover Magazine (2002) named him as one of the 20 most important people in this area. Forbes Magazine (2002) selected Langer as one of the 15 innovators worldwide who will reinvent our future. Time Magazine and CNN (2001) named Langer as one of the 100 most important people in America and one of the 18 top people in science or medicine in America. He has served, at various times, on 12 boards of directors and 30 scientific advisory boards of such companies as Alkermes, Mitsubishi Pharmaceuticals, Warner-Lambert, and Guilford Pharmaceuticals. Langer has received honorary doctorates from the ETH (Switzerland), the Technion (Israel), Hebrew University (Israel), and the Universite Catholique de Louvain (Belgium). He received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1970 and his Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974, both in chemical engineering.

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