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Robert Langer Wins Queen’s Prize For Engineering

Worth roughly $1.5 million, the prize honors MIT professor’s contributions to humanity

by Linda Wang
February 4, 2015

Credit: M. Scott Brauer
Robert S. Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Credit: M. Scott Brauer

Robert S. Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of 11 institute professors at the university, has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. The prize, worth more than $1.5 million, recognizes engineers whose innovations have benefited humanity globally.

Langer is being honored for his “revolutionary advances and leadership in engineering at the interface with chemistry and medicine.” His research has helped create the field of tissue engineering and led to strategies for delivering protein and peptide drugs.

“I’m shocked, very surprised, and very thrilled,” Langer says. “I’m happy to see the fields I’m involved in—chemistry, chemical engineering, and bioengineering—recognized by this wonderful award.”

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. He overturned the established thinking that controlled-release drug delivery would not work for large molecules such as peptides or proteins, which are very sensitive to their surroundings.

“What is very rewarding about receiving the largest engineering prize in the world is that when I finished my postdoctoral work, my first nine research grants were turned down and no engineering department would hire me,” he says, adding that he hopes the Queen Elizabeth Prize will continue to inspire young people and women to consider engineering as a profession.

Langer is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2006 National Medal of Science; the 2011 National Medal of Technology & Innovation; the 2012 Priestley Medal, American Chemical Society’s highest honor; the 2013 Wolf Prize in Chemistry; and the 2014 Kyoto Prize. He is an ACS Fellow.

The queen will present Langer with the award later this year during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.



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