From Ladies' Girdles to Artificial Hearts: Guest Speaker at Yale Links Engineering to Medicine

The third speaker in a lecture series that celebrates Yale engineering's 150th anniversary will be acclaimed MIT chemical and biomedical engineer Robert Langer, whose talk, "Engineered Biomaterials: How They Will Change Our Lives," will be held April 16 at 4 p.m. in Davies Auditorium, followed by a reception in Davies Lobby, 15 Prospect Street.

The third speaker in a lecture series that celebrates Yale engineering’s 150th anniversary will be acclaimed MIT chemical and biomedical engineer Robert Langer, whose talk, “Engineered Biomaterials: How They Will Change Our Lives,” will be held April 16 at 4 p.m. in Davies Auditorium, followed by a reception in Davies Lobby, 15 Prospect Street.

“Before our research, most materials used in medicine were off-the-shelf items, such as ladies’ girdles to construct artificial hearts,” said Langer, the Kenneth J. Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at MIT.

Langer, whose many research interests include the development of biomaterials for therapeutic purposes, said he and his team have been attempting to synthesize materials by asking what are the desired biological, chemical and engineering properties required and then synthesizing materials with the necessary characteristics. One such material has led to a new treatment for brain cancer.

“We are also studying how to deliver drugs across complex barriers such as the skin and lungs,” said Langer. “Another research area involves combining materials with cells to create new tissues. Other areas of interest involve the application of enzymes such as heparinase to create new enzyme-based therapies.”

Langer received a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and a Doctor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has won over 100 awards, such as the 2002 Charles Stark Draper Prize, a $500,000 annual award and gold medallion often referred to as “engineering’s Nobel Prize” - for inventing medical drug delivery technologies that prolong lives and ease suffering of millions every year. Other awards include the Lemelson-MIT Prize for Invention and Innovation for being one of history’s most prolific inventors in medicine. Langer is also the only active elected member of all three of the U.S. National Academies-the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.

“We are fortunate indeed to have a research leader of Professor Langer’s stature and prodigious accomplishment as a speaker in our Sesquicentennial Distinguished Lecture Series,” said Faculty of Engineering Dean Paul Fleury. “His work epitomizes the deep grounding in fundamental science and unique blending of disciplines that characterizes the finest in engineering research. His lecture is a particularly fitting way to mark the start of our second 150 years.”

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222