On Thursday, 18 April 2019, Sultan Qaboos University organized a lecture on “the role of scientists and engineers in leading the entrepreneurship and innovation in the fields of medicine, engineering and science”, presented by Prof. Robert S. Langer, U.S. Innovation Envoy and Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology USA. The lecture organized by the International Cooperation Office at SQU in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was held at the Al Fahm Hall of SQU Cultural Centre under the patronage of H.H. Sayyida Dr. Mona bint Fahad Al Said, SQU’s Assistant Vice Chancellor for External Cooperation.
Robert S. Langer is one of the most widely cited biotechnology researchers and holds over 1,000 patents worldwide. He has written over 1,400 articles. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 350 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. In his MIT laboratory, Langer fosters an entrepreneurial attitude among his postdoctoral students by urging patenting of inventions, forging links with industry, and forming start-up companies.
At SQU, Langer explained how he combined his academic knowledge in chemical engineeringwith groundbreaking inventions in medicine. Langer He graduated in Chemical Engineering from Cornell in 1970 and pursued graduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He ventured into medial research by working under Dr. Judah Folkman, a Harvard professor who was also chief of surgery at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Folkman believed that the spread of cancer and the growth of tumors could be controlled if angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels are created, was arrested. He set Langer the task of finding substances to inhibit the creation of new blood vessels.
While in Folkman’s lab, Langer identified and pursued another area of research, which was to develop polymers that would permit the gradual timed release of medication within the body. Within a few years, he developed a technique for modifying polymers that would slowly release the molecules for drug delivery. The same technique facilitated the testing of substances for inhibiting angiogenesis. Langer later pioneered in combining three-dimensional synthetic polymer scaffolds with living cells to create new tissues and organs in the laboratory. Langer also elaborated on his research and inventions in developing new tissues for blood vessels, skin, spinal cord in the laboratory to produce novel medical materials and his research that led to development of lifesaving therapies. Commenting on his medical research career that spans over 45 years, Prof Langer said:”I’ve always wanted to see what I can do to help people have happier, healthier lives. I’ve seen different medical problems and I’ve thought: What can we do to make things better for people?”
For the excellence of his research and his dedication to making results available for the medical care of the public, Langer has received many honors, including election to all three American academies—the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. In 2008, he received the Millennium Technology Prize, the largest prize for technological innovation and comparable to the Nobel Prizes in the sciences. He is one of 7 individuals to hold both the U.S. National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and in 2015, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.