Robert Langer, Sc.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 1992
For creating the field of controlled release of macromolecules and proteins, and for pioneering contributions in biomaterials.

The 16th US-Japan Symposium on Drug Delivery Systems

Via Langer Lab | March 7, 2024

The US-Japan Symposium on Drug Delivery Systems offers presentations by researchers from a number of disciplines, from the life sciences to engineering, who will address a range of topics including peptide and protein delivery, gene delivery, cell delivery, vaccines, transdermals, pulmonary delivery, new materials, and other subjects, from varied disciplines while focusing on the central theme of drug delivery. The Symposium offers a unique opportunity for interaction and networking among attendees from academia and industry.

The 16th US-Japan Symposium on Drug Delivery Systems
will be held
Sunday, December 15, 2024 to Thursday, December 19, 2024
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
200 Nohea Kai Drive, Lahaina, Hawaii

Find out more at Langer Lab.


Microneedle Patch Printer Enables On-Demand Vaccine Manufacturing

Via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | April 24, 2023

The portable instrument could increase global access to vaccines by simplifying their storage, distribution, and administration.

Researchers from the lab of Robert Langer, ScD, at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), say they have developed a printer for microneedle patches smaller than postage stamps that penetrate the skin to deliver vaccines, including the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.

The research article, “A microneedle vaccine printer for thermostable COVID-19 mRNA vaccines,” was published in Nature Biotechnology… Continue reading.


New nanoparticles can perform gene editing in the lungs

Via MIT | March 30, 2023

Using these RNA-delivery particles, researchers hope to develop new treatments for cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases.

Engineers at MIT and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have designed a new type of nanoparticle that can be administered to the lungs, where it can deliver messenger RNA encoding useful proteins.

With further development, these particles could offer an inhalable treatment for cystic fibrosis and other diseases of the lung, the researchers say… Continue reading.


Breaking through the mucus barrier

Via MIT | September 28, 2022

A capsule that tunnels through mucus in the GI tract could be used to orally administer large protein drugs such as insulin.

One reason that it’s so difficult to deliver large protein drugs orally is that these drugs can’t pass through the mucus barrier that lines the digestive tract. This means that insulin and most other “biologic drugs” — drugs consisting of proteins or nucleic acids — have to be injected or administered in a hospital.

A new drug capsule developed at MIT may one day be able to replace those injections. The capsule has a robotic cap that spins and tunnels through the mucus barrier when it reaches the small intestine, allowing drugs carried by the capsule to pass into cells lining the intestine… Continue reading.


Microparticles could be used to deliver “self-boosting” vaccines

Via MIT | July 13, 2022

Most vaccines, from measles to Covid-19, require a series of multiple shots before the recipient is considered fully vaccinated. To make that easier to achieve, MIT researchers have developed microparticles that can be tuned to deliver their payload at different time points, which could be used to create “self-boosting” vaccines.

In a new study, the researchers describe how these particles degrade over time, and how they can be tuned to release their contents at different time points. The study also offers insights into how the contents can be protected from losing their stability as they wait to be released… Continue reading.


Robert Langer wins BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

Via MIT | June 17, 2022

Institute Professor honored for groundbreaking work in nucleic acid delivery and nanoparticles.

Robert Langer, the David H. Koch (1962) Institute Professor at MIT, received yesterday the 2022 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biology and Biomedicine in recognition of his contributions to messenger (mRNA) therapeutics and delivery technology, which enabled the rapid development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

Langer shares the award with Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, both of the University of Pennsylvania. Karikó and Weissman discovered how to modify mRNA molecules so that they could be used as a therapeutic agent, while Langer developed the first approaches of nanoparticle encapsulation that allows mRNA to be introduced into the body… Continue reading.


Helping drug-delivering particles squeeze through a syringe

Via MIT | July 8, 2020

Microparticles offer a promising way to deliver multiple doses of a drug or vaccine at once, because they can be designed to release their payload at specific intervals. However, the particles, which are about the size of a grain of sand, can be difficult to inject because they can get clogged in a typical syringe.

MIT researchers have now developed a computational model that can help them improve the injectability of such microparticles and prevent clogging. The model analyzes a variety of factors, including the size and shape of the particles, to determine an optimal design for injectability… Continue reading.


“Living drug factories” might treat diabetes and other diseases

Via MIT | March 31, 2020

Chemical engineers have developed a way to protect transplanted drug-producing cells from immune system rejection.

One promising way to treat diabetes is with transplanted islet cells that produce insulin when blood sugar levels get too low. However, patients who receive such transplants must take drugs to prevent their immune systems from rejecting the transplanted cells, so the treatment is not often used.

To help make this type of therapy more feasible, MIT researchers have now devised a way to encapsulate therapeutic cells in a flexible protective device that prevents immune rejection while still allowing oxygen and other critical nutrients to reach the cells. Such cells could pump out insulin or other proteins whenever they are needed… Continue reading.


Robert Langer wins 2019 Dreyfus Prize for Chemistry in Support of Human Health

Via MIT | May 14, 2019

Robert S. Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, has been awarded the 2019 Dreyfus Prize for Chemistry in Support of Human Health. The biennial prize includes a $250,000 award; an award ceremony will be held at MIT on Sept. 26 and will include a lecture by Langer.

Langer is honored for “discoveries and inventions of materials for drug delivery systems and tissue engineering that have had a transformative impact on human health through chemistry.” The citation explains that “the drug delivery technologies that he invented have been lauded as the cornerstone of that industry, positively impacting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The impact and influence of his work is vast, and his papers have been cited in scientific publications more than any other engineer in history… Continue reading.


Oxygen-tracking method could improve diabetes treatment

Via MIT | February 25, 2019

Transplanting pancreatic islet cells into patients with diabetes is a promising alternative to the daily insulin injections that many of these patients now require. These cells could act as a bioartificial pancreas, monitoring blood glucose levels and secreting insulin when needed.

For this kind of transplantation to be successful, scientists need to make sure that the implanted cells receive enough oxygen, which they need in order to produce insulin and to remain viable. MIT engineers have now devised a way to measure oxygen levels of these cells over long periods of time in living animals, which should help them predict which implants will be most effective… Continue reading.


Ingestible capsule can be controlled wirelessly

Via MIT | December 13, 2018

Researchers at MIT, Draper, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have designed an ingestible capsule that can be controlled using Bluetooth wireless technology. The capsule, which can be customized to deliver drugs, sense environmental conditions, or both, can reside in the stomach for at least a month, transmitting information and responding to instructions from a user’s smartphone.

The capsules, manufactured using 3-D-printing technology, could be deployed to deliver drugs to treat a variety of diseases, particularly in cases where drugs must be taken over a long period of time. They could also be designed to sense infections, allergic reactions, or other events, and then release a drug in response.

“Our system could provide closed-loop monitoring and treatment, whereby a signal can help guide the delivery of a drug or tuning the dose of a drug,” says Giovanni Traverso, a visiting scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he will be joining the faculty in 2019.

These devices could also be used to communicate with other wearable and implantable medical devices, which could pool information to be communicated to the patient’s or doctor’s smartphone.

“We are excited about this demonstration of 3-D printing and of how ingestible technologies can help people through novel devices that facilitate mobile health applications,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research… Continue reading.


Probiotics and antibiotics create a killer combination

Via MIT | October 17, 2018

In the fight against drug-resistant bacteria, MIT researchers have enlisted the help of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics.

In a new study, the researchers showed that by delivering a combination of antibiotic drugs and probiotics, they could eradicate two strains of drug-resistant bacteria that often infect wounds. To achieve this, they encapsulated the probiotic bacteria in a protective shell of alginate, a biocompatible material that prevents the probiotics from being killed by the antibiotic.

“There are so many bacteria now that are resistant to antibiotics, which is a serious problem for human health. We think one way to treat them is by encapsulating a live probiotic and letting it do its job,” says Ana Jaklenec, a research scientist at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and one of the senior authors of the study.

If shown to be successful in future tests in animals and humans, the probiotic/antibiotic combination could be incorporated into dressings for wounds, where it could help heal infected chronic wounds, the researchers say.

Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor and a member of the Koch Institute, is also a senior author of the paper, which appears in the journal Advanced Materials on Oct. 17. Zhihao Li, a former MIT visiting scientist, is the study’s lead author… Continue reading.


Robert Langer named 2018 US Science Envoy

Via MIT | June 18, 2018

Robert S. Langer, the David H. Koch (1962) Institute Professor at MIT, has been named one of five U.S. Science Envoys for 2018. As a Science Envoy for Innovation, Langer will focus on novel approaches in biomaterials, drug delivery systems, nanotechnology, tissue engineering, and the U.S. approach to research commercialization.

One of 13 Institute Professors at MIT, Langer has written more than 1,400 articles. He also has over 1,300 issued and pending patents worldwide. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 350 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. He is the most cited engineer in history (h-index 253 with over 254,000 citations, according to Google Scholar… Continue reading.


“Living drug factories” may one day replace injections

Via MIT | May 16, 2018

Patients with diabetes generally rely on constant injections of insulin to control their disease. But MIT spinout Sigilon Therapeutics is developing an implantable, insulin-producing device that may one day make injections obsolete.

Sigilon recently partnered with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company to develop “living drug factories,” made of encapsulated, engineered cells that can be safely implanted in the body, and produce insulin over the course of months or even years. Down the road, cells may also be engineered to secrete other hormones, proteins, and antibodies.

The technology at Sigilon — based on research performed over the last decade at MIT — has led to creation of a device that encases cells and protects them from the patient’s immune system. This can be combined with engineered cells that produce a target therapeutic, such as insulin. The devices are tiny hydrogel beads, about 1 millimeter in diameter, that can be implanted into the patient through minimally invasive procedures… Continue reading.


Polymer synthesis gets a jolt of caffeine

Via MIT | April 12, 2018

Caffeine is well-known for its ability to help people stay alert, but a team of researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has now come up with a novel use for this chemical stimulant — catalyzing the formation of polymer materials.

Using caffeine as a catalyst, the researchers have devised a way to create gummy, biocompatible gels that could be used for drug delivery and other medical applications.

“Most synthetic approaches for synthesizing and cross-linking polymeric gels and other materials use catalysts or conditions that can damage sensitive substances such as biologic drugs. In contrast, here we used green chemistry and common food ingredients,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and one of the study’s senior authors. “We believe these new materials could be useful in creating new medical devices and drug delivery systems… Continue reading.


A fascination with magic leads Institute Professor Robert Langer to solve world problems using the marvels of chemical engineering.

Via MIT | March 27, 2018

Featured video: Magical Bob

As a child, Institute Professor Robert S. Langer was captivated by the “magic” of the chemical reactions in a toy chemistry set. Decades later, he continues to be enchanted by the potential of chemical engineering. He is the most cited engineer in the world, and shows no signs of slowing down, despite four decades of ground-breaking work in drug delivery and polymer research…  Continue reading.


Ultrathin needle can deliver drugs directly to the brain

Via MIT | January 24, 2018

MIT researchers have devised a miniaturized system that can deliver tiny quantities of medicine to brain regions as small as 1 cubic millimeter. This type of targeted dosing could make it possible to treat diseases that affect very specific brain circuits, without interfering with the normal function of the rest of the brain, the researchers say.

Using this device, which consists of several tubes contained within a needle about as thin as a human hair, the researchers can deliver one or more drugs deep within the brain, with very precise control over how much drug is given and where it goes. In a study of rats, they found that they could deliver targeted doses of a drug that affects the animals’ motor function.

“We can infuse very small amounts of multiple drugs compared to what we can do intravenously or orally, and also manipulate behavioral changes through drug infusion,” says Canan Dagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and the lead author of the paper, which appears in the Jan. 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine… Continue reading.


New drug capsule may allow weekly HIV treatment

Via MIT | January 9, 2018

Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a week’s worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule of dosing required for the drug cocktails used to fight the virus, the researchers say.

The new capsule is designed so that patients can take it just once a week, and the drug will release gradually throughout the week. This type of delivery system could not only improve patients’ adherence to their treatment schedule but also be used by people at risk of HIV exposure to help prevent them from becoming infected, the researchers say.

“One of the main barriers to treating and preventing HIV is adherence,” says Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The ability to make doses less frequent stands to improve adherence and make a significant impact at the patient level.”

Traverso and Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, are the senior authors of the study… Continue reading.


Robert Langer of MIT receives $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine from Northwestern

Via Northwestern University | September 27, 2017

EVANSTON – Chemical engineer and prolific inventor Robert S. Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — known as the “Edison of medicine” — is the recipient of the $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine for 2017, Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology announced today (Sept. 27).

The Kabiller Prize is the largest monetary award in the world for outstanding achievement in the field of nanotechnology and its application to medicine and biology.

The Kabiller Prize and the $10,000 Kabiller Young Investigator Award in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine were established in 2015 through the generosity of Northwestern trustee and alumnus David G. Kabiller to recognize the people designing the technologies that will drive innovation in nanomedicine and also to educate others as to the field’s great promise for helping society… Continue reading.


One vaccine injection could carry many doses

Via MIT | September 14, 2017

MIT engineers have invented a new 3-D fabrication method that can generate a novel type of drug-carrying particle that could allow multiple doses of a drug or vaccine to be delivered over an extended time period with just one injection.

The new microparticles resemble tiny coffee cups that can be filled with a drug or vaccine and then sealed with a lid. The particles are made of a biocompatible, FDA-approved polymer that can be designed to degrade at specific times, spilling out the contents of the “cup.”

“We are very excited about this work because, for the first time, we can create a library of tiny, encased vaccine particles, each programmed to release at a precise, predictable time, so that people could potentially receive a single injection that, in effect, would have multiple boosters already built into it. This could have a significant impact on patients everywhere, especially in the developing world where patient compliance is particularly poor,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT… Continue reading.


Kalytera Therapeutics Appoints Robert S. Langer to the Scientific Advisory Board

Via Market Wired | June 23, 2016

MANHATTAN BEACH, CA–(Marketwired – Jun 23, 2016) -Kalytera Therapeutics, Inc., a pharmaceutical company developing a portfolio of proprietary cannabinoid and endocannabinoid-like medicines, today announced the appointment of Dr. Robert S. Langer to Kalytera’s Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr. Langer is a David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”). He is a prolific biotechnologist, engineer, and inventor who is widely recognized for his contributions to the drug delivery and tissue engineering fields. His research laboratory at MIT is the largest biomedical engineering lab in the world, employing over 100 persons.

Dr. Langer has received over 220 major awards. He is one of four living individuals to have received both the U.S. National Medal of Science and the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation. He also received the Charles Stark Draper Prize, considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineers, the Millennium Prize, the world’s largest technology prize, and the Priestley Medal, the highest award of the American Chemical Society.

“We are honored to have Dr. Langer as a member of our team,” said Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Ph.D., Co-Chair of Kalytera’s Scientific Advisory Board. “He is a pioneer of many new technologies, including controlled release systems and transdermal delivery systems, which allow for the administration of drugs through the skin. His extensive experience and advice will help inform our technical development and commercialization efforts.”


Inside The Sci-Fi World Of Growing Human Tissue And Organs In The Lab

Via STAT | June 8, 2016

Inside a North Carolina lab, row upon row of plastic bioreactor bags pulsate gently to the beat of an artificial heart. Within each bag, a lab-forged blood vessel slowly expands, feeding off a primordial cocktail of vitamins and proteins.

The blood vessels start as individual cells, placed inside a sinewy scaffold. Weeks later, they’ve grown into full-fledged arteries and veins that surgeons can use for transplants.

Welcome to the age of tissue engineering.

For decades, scientists and doctors have been seeking a way to manufacture human tissue — including entire organs — in a lab, hoping to make grafts and transplants easier and safer than they are now. The goal has proved elusive, because it’s hard to replicate the complexity of human tissue outside the body. But those in the trenches say the industry could be on the verge of a breakthrough.

“In the past two years, we’ve seen a real evolution in thinking — both in the science and in the practical aspect of tissue engineering,” said Jennifer Elisseef, the director of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Name a tissue in the body, and you can be sure work’s being done — somewhere — to try and replicate it in the lab, said Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a bioengineer who pioneered some of this work in the 1980s.


‘Second Skin’ May Reduce Wrinkles, Eyebags, Scientists Say

Via New York Times | May 9, 2016

The idea sounds like fantasy: an invisible film that can be painted on your skin and give it the elasticity of youth. Bags under the eyes vanish in seconds. Wrinkles disappear.

Scientists at Harvard and M.I.T. have discovered that it is not fantasy at all. Reporting on Monday in the journal Nature Materials on pilot studies with 170 subjects, the researchers said a “second skin” composed of commonly used chemicals deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration can accomplish that — and in small studies of it, so far no one has reported irritation or allergic reactions.

Undereye bags are just the start. You can soak the film with sunscreen and protect yourself without worrying about sweat or water washing it away, researchers said. They expect it can be used to treat eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions by covering dry itchy patches with a film that moistens and soothes….

Dr. Robert Langer, a biomedical engineer who is a professor at M.I.T. and a scientific founder of Living Proof, started searching for something that would work. “We made literally hundreds of polymers,” he said. “We were looking for safety, spreadability, adherence, and the right kind of mechanical and optical properties.”


Potential Diabetes Treatment Advances

Via Harvard | January 25, 2016

Researchers at MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, in collaboration with scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and several other institutions, have developed an implantable device that in mice shielded insulin-producing beta cells from immune system attack for six months — a substantial proportion of life span.

This bioengineering work by professors Daniel G. Anderson and Robert S. Langer brings the promise of a possible cure for type 1 diabetes within striking distance of phase 1 clinical trials, providing a way to implant in diabetics insulin-producing beta cells developed from stem cells in the laboratory of HSCI co-director Doug Melton.

“This report is an important step forward, in an animal model, because it shows that there may be a way to overcome one of the major hurdles that have stood in the way of a cure for type 1 diabetes,” said Melton, Harvard’s Xander University Professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “Now, thanks to the outstanding work of Dan Anderson and Bob Langer at MIT, Gordon Weir at the Joslin Diabetes Center and HSCI, and Dale Greiner at the University of Massachusetts, and our other essential collaborators, we have stem cell-derived beta cells that can provide insulin in a device that appears capable of protecting them from immune attack.”


Queen Elizabeth II Presents £1m Engineering Prize to Dr. Robert Langer

Via Daily Mail | October 26, 2015

Queen Elizabeth II has presented a £1million engineering prize to Dr Robert Langer at a prestigious reception at Buckingham Palace.

Having been bestowed to only one recipient beforehand, chemical engineer Dr Langer received The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for his ‘revolutionary advances and leadership in engineering at the interface with chemistry and medicine’.

The American professor’s pioneering work has been the basis for long-lasting treatments for both brain and prostate cancer as well as endometriosis, schizophrenia, diabetes and cardiovascular stents. His advances are said to have improved more than two billion lives.


Kyoto Prize Winner Robert Langer on Innovations to Come

Via Xconomy | March 19, 2015

The Kyoto Prize Symposium is now in full flower in San Diego, highlighting Japan’s highest international award for honoring the people who have made significant contributions to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind.

The Kyoto Prize was first awarded in 1985, and for many it has become the most prestigious award available in fields that are not traditionally honored with a Nobel Prize. It also has become the only major international award with celebrations in two different hemispheres.

As part of the celebration, I got an opportunity to put a few questions to Robert Langer, an Institute Professor at MIT (and a Boston Xconomist and prolific entrepreneur), who received the 2014 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology. The Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences was awarded to Edward Witten, a theoretical physicist at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study; and the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy went to 89-year-old Fukima Shimura, a textiles artist best known as the creator of the tsumugi kimono.

Langer, 66, was cited as a founder of the field of tissue engineering, and for pioneering methods that use biodegradable polymers to form “scaffolds” upon which new tissues and even organs can be grown. Langer’s Kyoto Prize also notes his development for innovative and unique drug delivery technologies for the controlled release of medicines to directly target tumors and disease sites. Langer’s 2014 Kyoto Prize Commemorative Lecture in Advanced Technology is here.


Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Goes to Robert Langer

Via QE Prize | February 5, 2015

Winner of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering – Dr Robert Langer.

The ground-breaking chemical engineer Dr Robert Langer has been awarded the QEPrize for his revolutionary advances and leadership in engineering at the interface with chemistry and medicine.

Dr Langer was the first person to engineer polymers to control the delivery of large molecular weight drugs for the treatment of diseases such as cancer and mental illness. Over 2 billion lives have been improved worldwide by the technologies that Dr Langer’s lab has created.


Robert Langer Wins Kyoto Prize

Via Boston Globe - Science | June 20, 2014

One of the Boston area’s most decorated scientists has won yet another major award: Robert Langer, a biomedical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has won the $500,000 Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology.

The Kyoto Prize, announced on Friday in Japan, is a prestigious award from the non-profit Inamori Foundation, which honors significant scientific, cultural, and spiritual leaders.

Langer, 65, holds more than 800 patents and has published about 1,200 scientific papers over his scientific career. According to Mass High Tech, 220 companies owe their existence to him in some way, whether he helped found them directly or simply licensed his patents to them.

He is best known for his pioneering contributions in tissue engineering, where he has been a leader in the effort to grow tissues and organs on scaffolds, in the hopes of one day growing replacement parts for patients. He also has developed novel ways to package and deliver drugs in the body.

Earlier this year, Langer was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, a new prize founded by tech entrepreneurs in 2013.

The other winners are Edward Witten, a mathematician from the Institute of Advanced Study in New Jersey and Fukumi Shimura, an 89-year-old artist who creates kimonos and has been designated a “living national treasure” by the Japanese government.


Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Awarded to Robert Langer

Via Breakthrough Prize | December 12, 2013

December 12, 2013 (San Francisco) – The names of the 2014 Breakthrough Prize winners in Fundamental Physics and Life Sciences were unveiled at an exclusive ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA. At a total awarded amount of $21 million, sponsored by Sergey Brin & Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma & Cathy Zhang, Yuri & Julia Milner and Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan, the prizes aim to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career.

Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for discoveries leading to the development of controlled drug-release systems and new biomaterials.

“The Breakthrough Prize is our effort to put the spotlight on these amazing heroes. Their work in physics and genetics, cosmology, neurology and mathematics will change lives for generations and we are excited to celebrate them,” commented Mark Zuckerberg.
Yuri Milner said: “Einstein said, Pure mathematics is the poetry of logical ideas. It is in this spirit that Mark and myself are announcing a new Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The work that the Prize recognizes could be the foundation for genetic engineering, quantum computing or Artificial Intelligence; but above all, for human knowledge itself.”

This commitment to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge is not limited to the Prize ceremony. On December 13, there will be two Breakthrough Prize Symposiums: at Stanford, on the Future of Fundamental Science; and at the University of California, San Francisco, on the Future of the Biological Sciences. Winners of the Breakthrough Prize from 2012, 2013 and 2014 will give lectures and take part in panel discussions before an invited audience.


Researchers Unlock a New Means of Growing Intestinal Stem Cells

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | December 1, 2013

Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have shown that they can grow unlimited quantities of intestinal stem cells, then stimulate them to develop into nearly pure populations of different types of mature intestinal cells. Using these cells, scientists could develop and test new drugs to treat diseases such as ulcerative colitis.

The small intestine, like most other body tissues, has a small store of immature adult stem cells that can differentiate into more mature, specialized cell types. Until now, there has been no good way to grow large numbers of these stem cells, because they only remain immature while in contact with a type of supportive cells called Paneth cells.

In a new study appearing in the Dec. 1 online edition of Nature Methods, the researchers found a way to replace Paneth cells with two small molecules that maintain stem cells and promote their proliferation. Stem cells grown in a lab dish containing these molecules can stay immature indefinitely; by adding other molecules, including inhibitors and activators, the researchers can control what types of cells they eventually become.


Pills of the Future: Nanoparticles

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | November 27, 2013

Drugs delivered by nanoparticles hold promise for targeted treatment of many diseases, including cancer. However, the particles have to be injected into patients, which has limited their usefulness so far.

Now, researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have developed a new type of nanoparticle that can be delivered orally and absorbed through the digestive tract, allowing patients to simply take a pill instead of receiving injections.

In a paper appearing in the Nov. 27 online edition of Science Translational Medicine, the researchers used the particles to demonstrate oral delivery of insulin in mice, but they say the particles could be used to carry any kind of drug that can be encapsulated in a nanoparticle. The new nanoparticles are coated with antibodies that act as a key to unlock receptors found on the surfaces of cells that line the intestine, allowing the nanoparticles to break through the intestinal walls and enter the bloodstream.

This type of drug delivery could be especially useful in developing new treatments for conditions such as high cholesterol or arthritis. Patients with those diseases would be much more likely to take pills regularly than to make frequent visits to a doctor’s office to receive nanoparticle injections, say the researchers.

“If you were a patient and you had a choice, there’s just no question: Patients would always prefer drugs they can take orally,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and an author of the Science Translational Medicine paper.


MIT’s Langer Wins Top Honor, Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and Biosciences

Via Boston Business Journal | September 18, 2013

BioMed SA will award its eighth Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences to Robert S. Langer on Wednesday.

Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, runs one of the largest research labs at the internationally acclaimed institution.

The award, named after Palmaz Stent inventor Dr. Julio Palmaz, honors individuals who have made significant contributions to advance the health care and bioscience fields. Langer will accept the award at BioMed SA’s annual Palmaz Award dinner on Wednesday.


Enhancing RNA Interference

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | June 23, 2013

Nanoparticles that deliver short strands of RNA offer a way to treat cancer and other diseases by shutting off malfunctioning genes. Although this approach has shown some promise, scientists are still not sure exactly what happens to the nanoparticles once they get inside their target cells.

A new study from MIT sheds light on the nanoparticles’ fate and suggests new ways to maximize delivery of the RNA strands they are carrying, known as short interfering RNA (siRNA).

“We’ve been able to develop nanoparticles that can deliver payloads into cells, but we didn’t really understand how they do it,” says Daniel Anderson, the Samuel Goldblith Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “Once you know how it works, there’s potential that you can tinker with the system and make it work better.”

Anderson, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, is the leader of a research team that set out to examine how the nanoparticles and their drug payloads are processed at a cellular and subcellular level. Their findings appear in the June 23 issue of Nature Biotechnology. Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, is also an author of the paper.


Prickly Porcupine: Medicine’s Next Top Model?

Via Health Hub | March 7, 2013

The North American porcupine is easily recognizable due to its impressive coat of long, sharp quills. These unique projections are designed so that they can easily penetrate animal flesh, but are extremely difficult to remove. While this may be bad news for a predator or a curious pet, this natural mechanism is a boon for a curious medical researcher trying to develop a better medical device.

A research team led by Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Robert Langer, PhD, have figured out the secret to the porcupine quill’s easy-in, not-so-easy-out design and demonstrated how that design could be applied to developing a better medical needle or adhesive patch.

The researchers worked with natural porcupine quills and molded polyurethane quills (mimicking the structure of natural quills) to help them understand the forces involved. They discovered that a quill’s geometry, particularly its sleek backward facing barbs, is instrumental in its ability to easily penetrate tissue and subsequently prevent easy extraction.


Chisholm, Langer Receive Nation’s Highest Honors for Scientists and Inventors

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | February 4, 2013

President Barack Obama on Friday presented MIT professors Sallie (Penny) Chisholm and Robert Langer with the nation’s highest honors for scientific discovery and invention. They were among 22 eminent scientists nationwide honored during a White House ceremony.

Chisholm, the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies, was presented the National Medal of Science for her research on photosynthetic marine organisms. Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor — who won the 2006 National Medal of Science — received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for inventing new and different ways to administer drugs to patients.

“We are so grateful to all of you,” Obama said to the 12 science medal recipients and 10 technology medal recipients during the ceremony. “The incredible contributions that you’ve made have enhanced our lives in immeasurable ways, in ways that are practical but also inspirational. And so we know that you are going to continue to inspire and in many cases teach the next generation of inventors and scientists who will discover things that we can’t even dream of at this point.”


Five With Ties to MIT Earn Top IEEE Awards

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | January 22, 2013

Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor; Jack Dennis, MIT professor emeritus; Leo Beranek, former associate professor of communications engineering at MIT; and MIT alumni Irwin M. Jacobs and Sunlin Chou have earned awards this year from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). They are among 20 award recipients who will be recognized at the IEEE Honors Ceremony on June 29 in San Diego.


Lizard Inspires “Ouchless” Medical Tape | HealthHub | Brigham and Women’s Hospital Health Blog

Via Health Hub | January 17, 2013

The medical tape that physicians use today is quite good at keeping medical devices attached to the skin. Unfortunately, that same sticky tape also can be quite hard to get off – particularly when used on newborns or elderly patients – which often results in severely damaged skin.

But thanks to a little green lizard, an eight-legged arachnid, and researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), patients may soon benefit from a new type of medical tape that holds strong when you need it to, but also peels off easily.

The Institute for Pediatric Innovation established the need for such an adhesive after surveying neonatal clinicians nationwide. Then they asked Jeffrey Karp, PhD, BWH Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, and Robert Langer, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to develop it.


New Material Harvests Energy from Water Vapor

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | January 10, 2013

MIT engineers have created a new polymer film that can generate electricity by drawing on a ubiquitous source: water vapor.

The new material changes its shape after absorbing tiny amounts of evaporated water, allowing it to repeatedly curl up and down. Harnessing this continuous motion could drive robotic limbs or generate enough electricity to power micro- and nanoelectronic devices, such as environmental sensors.

“With a sensor powered by a battery, you have to replace it periodically. If you have this device, you can harvest energy from the environment so you don’t have to replace it very often,” says Mingming Ma, a postdoc at MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and lead author of a paper describing the new material in the Jan. 11 issue of Science.

“We are very excited about this new material, and we expect as we achieve higher efficiency in converting mechanical energy into electricity, this material will find even broader applications,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and senior author of the paper. Those potential applications include large-scale, water-vapor-powered generators, or smaller generators to power wearable electronics.


Two MIT Professors Win Prestigious Wolf Prize

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | January 4, 2013

MIT professors Michael Artin and Robert Langer are among eight recipients worldwide of the 2013 Wolf Prize, the Israel-based Wolf Foundation announced this week.

The prestigious international prizes are awarded annually in five categories, each worth $100,000; Artin and Langer were cited for their contributions in mathematics and chemistry, respectively. More than 30 Wolf Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Israeli President Shimon Peres will present the prizes in May at a special session hosted by the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.


Chisholm, Langer Awarded Nation’s Highest Honors for Scientists and Inventors

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | December 21, 2012

MIT professors Sallie (Penny) Chisholm and Robert Langer are among 23 eminent researchers nationwide who have been awarded the nation’s highest honors for scientists, engineers and inventors, the White House announced today.

President Barack Obama will present the National Medal of Science to Chisholm, the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, at a ceremony in early 2013. Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor — who won the 2006 National Medal of Science — will receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation at the same ceremony.


Inspiration from a Porcupine’s Quills

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | December 10, 2012

Anyone unfortunate enough to encounter a porcupine’s quills knows that once they go in, they are extremely difficult to remove. Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital now hope to exploit the porcupine quill’s unique properties to develop new types of adhesives, needles and other medical devices.

In a new study, the researchers characterized, for the first time, the forces needed for quills to enter and exit the skin. They also created artificial devices with the same mechanical features as the quills, raising the possibility of designing less-painful needles, or adhesives that can bind internal tissues more securely.

There is a great need for such adhesives, especially for patients who have undergone gastric-bypass surgery or other types of gastric or intestinal surgery, according to the researchers. These surgical incisions are now sealed with sutures or staples, which can leak and cause complications.

“With further research, biomaterials modeled based on porcupine quills could provide a new class of adhesive materials,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a senior author of the study, which appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


M.I.T. Lab Hatches Ideas, and Companies, by the Dozens

Via New York Times | November 24, 2012

HOW do you take particles in a test tube, or components in a tiny chip, and turn them into a $100 million company?

Dr. Robert Langer, 64, knows how. Since the 1980s, his Langer Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has spun out companies whose products treat cancer, diabetes, heart disease and schizophrenia, among other diseases, and even thicken hair.

The Langer Lab is on the front lines of turning discoveries made in the lab into a range of drugs and drug delivery systems. Without this kind of technology transfer, the thinking goes, scientific discoveries might well sit on the shelf, stifling innovation.

A chemical engineer by training, Dr. Langer has helped start 25 companies and has 811 patents, issued or pending, to his name. More than 250 companies have licensed or sublicensed Langer Lab patents.

Polaris Venture Partners, a Boston venture capital firm, has invested $220 million in 18 Langer Lab-inspired businesses. Combined, these businesses have improved the health of many millions of people, says Terry McGuire, co-founder of Polaris.

Along the way, Dr. Langer and his lab, including about 60 postdoctoral and graduate students at a time, have found a way to navigate some slippery territory: the intersection of academic research and the commercial market.


Taking the Sting Out of Medical Tape

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | October 29, 2012

Ripping off a Band-Aid may sting for a few seconds, but the pain is usually quickly forgotten. However, for newborns’ sensitive skin, tearing off any kind of adhesive can pose a serious risk.

Newborns lack an epidermis — the tough outermost layer of skin — so medical tape used to secure respirators or monitoring devices critical for the survival of premature babies can wreak havoc: Every year, more than 1.5 million people suffer scarring and skin irritation from medical tape, and the majority of those are infants or elderly people, who also have fragile skin.

“This is just a huge unmet need,” says Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Bryan Laulicht, a postdoc in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and MIT Institute Professor Robert Langer have now joined Karp in developing a new type of medical tape that can be removed without damaging delicate skin. The new tape could be produced by adapting current adhesive-manufacturing systems, according to the researchers.

Although originally designed for infants, the tape could also be useful for elderly patients. The new adhesive is described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Spiderwebs May Inspire Better Medical Tape

Via CNN | October 29, 2012

Taking medical tape off an adult isn’t too painful because breakage occurs in the glue (you can sometimes see the leftover residue). But removing the same adhesive from a newborn can break fragile skin, causing significant damage, says Jeffrey Karp, researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Traditional medical tape has two layers: the sticky one and the non-sticky one that forms the backing. The adhesive is designed for adults, Karp said; newborns need something else just for them.

In the neonatal intensive care unit tape often needs to be changed, Karp said. If the tape is on a joint, peeling the fragile skin can cause mobility problems.

“The kids are just completely helpless here,” he said.

Karp, Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Bryan Laulicht of Brigham and Women’s wanted to solve this problem by designing a tape that doesn’t damage sensitive skin when it’s removed. They’ve published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing their idea for a solution, which hasn’t yet been tested clinically.


Merging Tissue and Electronics

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | August 26, 2012

New tissue scaffold could be used for drug development and implantable therapeutic devices.

To control the three-dimensional shape of engineered tissue, researchers grow cells on tiny, sponge-like scaffolds. These devices can be implanted into patients or used in the lab to study tissue responses to potential drugs.

A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital has now added a new element to tissue scaffolds: electronic sensors. These sensors, made of silicon nanowires, could be used to monitor electrical activity in the tissue surrounding the scaffold, control drug release or screen drug candidates for their effects on the beating of heart tissue.

The research, published online Aug. 26 in Nature Materials, could also pave the way for development of tissue-engineered hearts, says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a senior author of the paper.

“We are very excited about this study,” Langer says. “It brings us one step closer to someday creating a tissue-engineered heart, and it shows how novel nanomaterials can play a role in this field.”


Target: Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | May 3, 2012

Over the past several decades, scientists have faced challenges in developing new antibiotics even as bacteria have become increasingly resistant to existing drugs. One strategy that might combat such resistance would be to overwhelm bacterial defenses by using highly targeted nanoparticles to deliver large doses of existing antibiotics.

In a step toward that goal, researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a nanoparticle designed to evade the immune system and home in on infection sites, then unleash a focused antibiotic attack.

This approach would mitigate the side effects of some antibiotics and protect the beneficial bacteria that normally live inside our bodies, says Aleks Radovic-Moreno, an MIT graduate student and lead author of a paper describing the particles in the journal ACS Nano.

Institute Professor Robert Langer of MIT and Omid Farokzhad, director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, are senior authors of the paper. Timothy Lu, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and MIT undergraduates Vlad Puscasu and Christopher Yoon also contributed to the research.


Nano-sized ‘Factories’ Churn Out Proteins

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | April 8, 2012

Drugs made of protein have shown promise in treating cancer, but they are difficult to deliver because the body usually breaks down proteins before they reach their destination.

To get around that obstacle, a team of MIT researchers has developed a new type of nanoparticle that can synthesize proteins on demand. Once these “protein-factory” particles reach their targets, the researchers can turn on protein synthesis by shining ultraviolet light on them.

The particles could be used to deliver small proteins that kill cancer cells, and eventually larger proteins such as antibodies that trigger the immune system to destroy tumors, says Avi Schroeder, a postdoc in MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and lead author of a paper appearing in the journal NanoLetters.

“This is the first proof of concept that you can actually synthesize new compounds from inert starting materials inside the body,” says Schroeder, who works in the labs of Robert Langer, MIT’s David H. Koch Institute Professor, and Daniel Anderson, an associate professor of health sciences and technology and chemical engineering.

Langer and Anderson are also authors of the paper, along with former Koch Institute postdocs Michael Goldberg, Christian Kastrup and Christopher Levins


Targeted Nanoparticles Show Success in Clinical Trials

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | April 4, 2012

Targeted therapeutic nanoparticles that accumulate in tumors while bypassing healthy cells have shown promising results in an ongoing clinical trial, according to a new paper.

The nanoparticles feature a homing molecule that allows them to specifically attack cancer cells, and are the first such targeted particles to enter human clinical studies. Originally developed by researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the particles are designed to carry the chemotherapy drug docetaxel, used to treat lung, prostate and breast cancers, among others.

In the study, which appears April 4 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the researchers demonstrate the particles’ ability to target a receptor found on cancer cells and accumulate at tumor sites. The particles were also shown to be safe and effective: Many of the patients’ tumors shrank as a result of the treatment, even when they received lower doses than those usually administered.


Five Faculty to Receive ACS Awards

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | March 13, 2012

Five MIT faculty members will receive prizes from the American Chemical Society at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego on March 27.

Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, will receive the Priestley Medal for “revolutionary discoveries in the areas of polymeric controlled release systems and tissue engineering and synthesis of new materials that led to new medical treatments.” Langer will deliver the Priestley Medal Address at the ACS awards ceremony.


Successful Human Tests for First Wirelessly Controlled Drug-Delivery Chip

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | February 16, 2012

About 15 years ago, MIT professors Robert Langer and Michael Cima had the idea to develop a programmable, wirelessly controlled microchip that would deliver drugs after implantation in a patient’s body. This week, the MIT researchers and scientists from MicroCHIPS Inc. reported that they have successfully used such a chip to administer daily doses of an osteoporosis drug normally given by injection.

The results, published in the Feb. 16 online edition of Science Translational Medicine, represent the first successful test of such a device and could help usher in a new era of telemedicine — delivering health care over a distance, Langer says.


Langer Honored for Achievements in Biomedical Engineering

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | October 3, 2011

Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, who has enabled the creation of artificial skin now used for burn victims and skin-ulcer patients and whose work may someday enable the creation of new vocal cords, is the winner of this year’s Innovation Award in the category of bioscience. The Innovation Awards, given by The Economist, are now in their 10th year.

The award, sponsored by Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd., recognizes Langer’s success as one of the world’s most prolific and creative biomedical engineers, with more than 800 issued and pending patents worldwide. Langer is a pioneer in the application of engineering principles to biology, notably in the fields of controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering. He heads the largest biomedical engineering laboratory in the world, employing more than 100 researchers.


New Material Could Offer Hope to Those with No Voice

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | July 13, 2011

In 1997, the actress and singer Julie Andrews lost her singing voice following surgery to remove noncancerous lesions from her vocal cords. She came to Steven Zeitels, a professor of laryngeal surgery at Harvard Medical School, for help.

Zeitels was already starting to develop a new type of material that could be implanted into scarred vocal cords to restore their normal function. In 2002, he enlisted the help of MIT’s Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, an expert in developing polymers for biomedical applications.

The team led by Langer and Zeitels has now developed a polymer gel that they hope to start testing in a small clinical trial next year. The gel, which mimics key traits of human vocal cords, could help millions of people with voice disorders — not just singers such as Andrews and Steven Tyler, another patient of Zeitels’.


Robert Langer Wins Top Chemistry Award

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | June 21, 2011

David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert S. Langer has been selected by the American Chemical Society (ACS) to receive the 2012 Priestley Medal, the society’s most prestigious prize, for his “distinguished services to chemistry.”

Langer was honored for his “cutting-edge research that helped create the controlled-release drug industry and the field of tissue engineering,” according to Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the journal of the ACS.

“I’m honored — and a bit shocked — to receive the Priestley Medal,” Langer told C&EN. “It’s a thrill to be included among the prestigious winners of this award, not just for me, but for my lab, my fields of research, and for the chemical engineering community.”


Langer to receive National Academy of Engineering Award

Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology | October 1, 2010

Institute Professor Robert Langer will receive the Founders Award from the National Academy of Engineering on Sunday, Oct. 3, at the Academy’s annual meeting.

Langer was chosen for the honor for “the invention, development, and commercialization of methods and materials for drug delivery and tissue engineering, mentoring of young scientists, and the promotion of the nation’s health.” The award recognizes outstanding professional, educational and personal achievements to the benefit of society, and it includes $2,500 and a gold medallion.