The creator of a new generation of “smart pills” that allow life-saving drugs to be released into the body on demand has been given the world’s richest technology prize for leading a biomedical revolution that is helping millions around the globe.
Dr Robert Langer, the Harvard professor who heads the world’s largest biomedical engineering laboratory at MIT, was awarded the Millennium Technology Prize. He is now working on “smart injections” that pass through the skin without needles.
The cash prize falls just about $40,000 short of the 10-million Swedish krona received by Nobel laureates and is seen to be the biggest award for innovation, having honoured the world wide web’s creator Tim Berners-Lee at its inception in 2004. The prize, established as a private-public partnership between Finnish industry and the state, is given every two years to recognize life-enhancing innovations.
The diminutive and downbeat doctor of chemical engineering has often been described as a “pharmaceutical postman” for managing to deliver life-saving drugs to the right part of the body, in the right dose and at the right time. Langer, who holds more than 600 patents, which have been licensed and sub-licensed to more than 200 pharmaceutical, chemical and biotech companies.