Earlier this month, President Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Professor Robert Langer. This was the second time that the White House has played host to Langer, who won the National Medal of Science there in 2007 making him only the seventh person to receive both prestigious awards.
Currently Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Langer’s career has been renowned and instrumental within the fields of medicine and biotechnology and according to his CV, Langer has written almost 1200 articles and has 810 patents either issued or pending in the fields.
Founder of various biotech companies - including Blend Therapeutics - and widely regarded for his contributions to drug delivery systems, In-Pharmatechnologist.com managed to catch hold of the pioneer and entrepreneur to discuss his career and the drug delivery sector in a brief Q&A session:
IPT: Only seven people have won both the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of technology and Innovation. How do you feel to be amongst this elite?
RL: I feel very, very fortunate. It's such an honor to be mentioned with these people
IPT: You have been described as a pioneer of transdermal delivery systems. How has this affected the lives of patients using this delivery technique?
RL: Drug delivery has helped many millions of people with heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases.
IPT: Which of your work have you felt has had the greatest impact in the pharmaceutical industry and who (or which companies) are leading the way in the field of drug delivery?
RL: Perhaps the early work we did on creating microspheres that could controllably release molecules of any size. There are many great scientists in this field. I think as companies go, Alkermes has done great work. And there are many others.
IPT: Would you be able to talk us briefly through your work with slow-release drug-delivery systems and explain the benefit of your discovery?
RL: We've published hundreds of papers. The earliest involved controlled release of molecules of any size. Others involved creating new polymers. We've also done a lot of work on novel ways of delivering drugs through the transdermal, oral, pulmonary, nasal, and vaginal routes among others. We have created new polymers, novel nanoparticles, and drug delivery microchips… and we've done work on delivering novel compounds like DNA and siRna.
IPT: Is there currently a lack of investment in drug delivery and is this one of the biggest challenges in the field?
RL: I think investments will be there for really good ideas. But the costs of clinical trials keep rising, so it does get more difficult.
IPT: How do you feel about drug companies who reformulate therapies to act as slow-release – for example the ADHD drug Adderall and Adderall XR - in order to stave off patent expirations? Is this fair?
RL: It's fine if they do novel drug delivery work that results in improvements.
IPT: You are currently, as scientific co-founder, working with Blend Therapeutics in discovering and developing cancer therapies. What technology are you using and what are you hoping to achieve?
RL: With Blend, we are creating new combination therapies involving novel platinum drugs pioneered by my cofounder Steve Lippard, along with nanotechnology pioneered by my [other] cofounder Omid Farokhzad and I.
IPT: If resources were limitless, which direction would you like the future of drug delivery to go in?
RL: All kinds of ways, including: targeted delivery, smart or stimuli-responsive delivery, delivery of RNA and DNA, and non-invasive delivery of complex molecules.
IPT: If you could have had a career as illustrious as your one in any other field what would you have chosen?
RL: Molecular biology. I think wonderful advances are being made there.
IPT: Finally, describe your ideal Sunday.
RL: Sleep late, exercise, have great food, spend a lot of time with my wife and kids and perhaps not work as much as I normally do.