Biomaterials and Biotechnology:
From the Discovery of the First Angiogenesis Inhibitors to the Development of Controlled Drug Delivery Systems and the Foundation of Tissue Engineering
Prof Robert S Langer
David H Koch Institute Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Advanced drug delivery systems are having an enormous impact on human health. We start by discussing our early research on developing the first controlled release systems for macromolecules and the isolation of angiogenesis inhibitors and how these led to numerous new therapies. This early research then led to new drug delivery technologies including nanoparticles and nanotechnology that are now being studied for use treating cancer, other illnesses and in vaccine delivery. We then discuss ways of developing novel microchips for drug delivery. Approaches for synthesizing new biomaterials, such as biodegradable polyanhydrides, are then examined, and examples where such materials are used in brain cancer and other diseases are discussed. Finally, by combining mammalian cells, including stem cells, with synthetic polymers, new approaches for engineering tissues are being developed that may someday help in various diseases. Examples in the areas of cartilage, skin, blood vessels and spinal cord repair are discussed.
Robert S Langer is the David H Koch Institute Professor (there are 13 Institute Professors at MIT; being an Institute Professor is the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member). Dr Langer has written over 1,350 articles. He also has over 1,100 issued and pending patents worldwide. Dr Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 300 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. He is the most cited engineer in history (h-index 222).
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.
Dr Langer has received over 220 major awards. He is one of 4 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 also the only engineer to receive the Gairdner Foundation International Award; 82 recipients of this award have subsequently received a Nobel Prize. In 2015, Dr Langer received the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. 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 National Academy of Medicine, 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.
Forbes Magazine (1999) and Bio World (1990) have named Dr 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 Dr Langer as one of the 15 innovators world wide who will reinvent our future. Time Magazine and CNN (2001) named Dr Langer as one of the 100 most important people in America and one of the 18 top people in science or medicine in America (America’s Best). Parade Magazine (2004) selected Dr Langer as one of 6 “Heroes whose research may save your life.” Dr Langer has received honorary doctorates from Harvard University, the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Yale University, the University of Maryland, University of Western Ontario (Canada), the ETH (Switzerland), the Technion (Israel), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), the Universite Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Willamette University, the University of Liverpool (England), Bates College, the University of Nottingham (England), Albany Medical College, Pennsylvania State University, Northwestern University, Uppsala University (Sweden), Tel Aviv University (Israel), Boston University, Ben Gurion University (Israel), Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, Hanyang University (South Korea), University of New South Wales (Australia), Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Hong Kong) and the University of California – San Francisco Medal. 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.