Robert Langer receives Dr. Paul Janssen Award

Institute Professor Robert Langer

Award honors “scientists who have made a transformational contribution toward the improvement of human health.”

Department of Chemical Engineering

February 13, 2024

MIT Institute Professor Robert S. Langer was recently honored with the 2023 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for his groundbreaking work in designing novel drug delivery systems that can deliver medications continuously, precisely, and at controlled rates over extended periods. Langer’s pioneering research into biomedical compounds for drug delivery and tissue engineering has impacted a wide range of medical technologies, including anticancer therapy, vaccine development (including the Covid-19 vaccine), gene therapy, and more.

Given annually by Johnson & Johnson, the Dr. Paul Janssen Award recognizes “the most passionate and creative scientist or group of scientists in basic or clinical research, whose achievements have made or have strong potential to make a measurable impact on human health.” Langer accepted the award during a virtual symposium on Feb. 8.

Robert Langer is one of MIT’s nine current Institute Professors, the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member. His patents have licensed or sub-licensed to over 400 companies, and he is a co-founder of a number of companies, including Moderna. His over 220 awards include both the United States National Medal of Science and the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation (he is one of three living individuals to have received both of these honors), the Charles Stark Draper Prize (often called the Nobel Prize of engineering), the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, Albany Medical Center Prize, Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Kyoto Prize, Wolf Prize for Chemistry, Millennium Technology Prize, Priestley Medal, Gairdner Prize, Hoover Medal, Dreyfus Prize in Chemical Sciences, BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine, and the Balzan Prize. He has been elected to the National Academy of Inventors, and is one of only 25 people who have been elected to all three national academies — Engineering, Science, and Medicine.

The Langer Laboratory works at the interface of biotechnology and materials science to address a wide range of problems in human health. A major focus is the study and development of materials such as polymers and lipids to deliver drugs, particularly genetically engineered proteins and DNA and RNA, continuously at controlled rates for prolonged periods of time. In addition, his lab is developing drugs that specifically inhibit the process of neovascularization that is critical to several disease processes, without interfering with existing blood vessels. The lab has also been involved in creating approaches to engineer new tissues, such as the synthetization of new systems to be used in mammalian cell transplants to create liver, cartilage, pancreas, and nerves. The lab is also developing new approaches to improve health in the developing world including new methods of vaccination and providing better nutrition.

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