Since the 1980s, chemical engineer Dr. Robert Langer has engaged in the world of tech transfer perhaps more successfully than any other research on the planet, launching a wide range of biotech startups through his Langer Lab at MIT.
Among the 25 companies, 811 patents and 250 licensing agreements Dr. Langer has developed or accelerated, resulting products include treatments for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, schizophrenia and other diseases. A small wafer that delivers a dose of chemotherapy to treat brain cancer; sugar-sequencing tools to create safer, more effective drugs; and a tiny chip that can test for diseases have all emerged from the Langer Lab.
The lab is mostly federally funded, with a budget of more than $10 million for 2012, and Dr. Langer leads about 60 postdoctoral and graduate students, all of whom have had to learn to navigate the difficult intersection of academia and industry, be it arduous clinical trials or the dangers of too much commercial interest within a research project.
Many agree that what sets the Langer Lab apart from the many tech transfer efforts at research universities is Dr. Langer’s special mentoring abilities. Former lab worker Paulina Hill, who is now a senior associate at Polaris Venture Partners, says Dr. Langer is “notorious for replying to e-mails in two minutes, whether it’s a lowly graduate student or the president of the United States.” Dr. Langer himself calls the students in his lab “an extended family.”
It is likely this kind of attention that propels many of the students into success after leaving school. The founders of Momenta, the vice president of research at Kala Pharmaceuticals, and the chief scientific officer at Seventh Sense Biosystems all spent time in Dr. Langer’s lab.
Dr. H. Kent Bowen at the Harvard Business School praises Dr. Langer for urging students to take entrepreneurial risks. “They all come away thinking nothing is impossible,” Dr. Bowen says.
Source: The New York Times