Researchers from around Ireland gathered in University of Limerick (UL) on Friday morning to listen to one of the world’s top engineers discuss his work in the area of biomaterials and biotechnology.
Described by Harvard Business Review as the ‘Edison of Medicine’, Professor Robert Langer is credited with improving the lives of more than two billion people worldwide through his work in developing novel drug-delivery systems.
The David H Koch Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was in UL as part of its Bernal Distinguished Lecturer Series at the university’s Bernal Institute. The university's new president Dr Des Fitzgerald described Professor Langer as an “outstanding academic” and a “great educator”.
“Professor Langer’s career is not just about his exemplary track record in multidisciplinary research, it is also about his success in bringing his research from the lab to the market and his innovation in the design of novel therapies for treatments with high societal impact,” Dr Fitzgerald stated.
Chair of Friday’s event and lecturer in chemistry at UL, Dr Sarah Hudson was a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Langer’s lab from 2006 to 2008.
“While working in Professor Langer’s lab at MIT, I saw how he was able to pinpoint the crux and/or the potential of your work or ideas immediately. I discovered that innovative science comes from the unexpected - you can plan your experiments but you cannot plan your results but that by looking at things from different angles, unexpected ideas and solutions will evolve,” Dr Hudson said.
“Professor Langer is an inspirational speaker and his work is an exciting example of what can be achieved when you integrate medical doctors, engineers, physicists, biologists, histologists, vets, pharmacists and chemists together in a research environment. The Bernal Institute and UL has created a similar cross-disciplinary research environment and I believe listening to how Professor Langer's work came about, his numerous inventions and discoveries for new therapies to treat disease, will demonstrate just how much can be achieved in such an environment.
“I believe it will inspire many people here and also reassure the public that we, as researchers, are concerned with the same things that worry them and that we are pulling together to combat many of the health and environmental issues we face worldwide today,” Dr Hudson concluded.
Professor Langer’s lecture at UL was entitled "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". The lecture included discussions on Professor Langer’s research, how it 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. It also touched on ways of developing systems for treatment of brain cancer and other diseases and new approaches for engineering tissues such as cartilage, skin and blood vessels.