It's hard to overstate just how accomplished Robert 'Bob' Langer is.
A chemical engineer by training and an MIT Institute Professor, he's head of the largest biomedical science lab in the world, and is recognised as the founder of the fields of tissue engineering and drug delivery.
On the 23rd May 2018 I was honoured to be invited to the conferral of an honorary doctorate on Bob Langer in University of Limerick (UL) - not his first honorary doctorate... In fact it's his 34th!
The event was organised by Dr. Sarah Hudson, a lecturer in Chemistry at UL who had undertaken a fellowship in Robert Langer's lab, who continues this important research and now works on drug formulation and delivery and biocatalysis. Sarah read an excellent citation in which some of the highlights of his research and career.
These accomplishments are numerous and somewhat dazzling; Langer is the most cited engineer in history, and one of the few people elected to three national academies in the United States. With over 1,100 patents, over 200 past graduate students, election to over 40 editorial boards, and over 220 major awards under his belt, it's clear that his influence and impact have been widely felt.
Professor Bob Langer made the decision early on in his career that he wanted to 'make a difference in people's lives' - in this, he has been a resounding success; it's estimated that the number of lives Langer has improved numbers over 2 billion people. This staggering impact highlights his position as a powerhouse in translational science.
Langer is nearing his 70th birthday but remains an active scientist in the fields of tissue and cell engineering, medical devices, and drug development. I read with interest one of his most recent citations -the invention of a micro-bio-electronic device using biosensor bacteria and ingestible electronics for diagnostic purposes. Many of his research aims seem as impossibly lofty, and yet he has a remarkable list of accomplishing the impossible.
After the degree conferral, the event was enhanced by seminars from Professors Maria José Alonso, Fergal O' Brien and Mark Davies, and Dr. Jakki Cooney.
There was also a Q&A session with the audience from Bob Langer and Terry McGuire, a founding partner in Polaris Partners - an investment firm that partner with entrepreneurs in the healthcare and technology fields.
Polaris and the Langer lab enjoy a long and fruitful relationship - nearly 30 start-ups have been born out of Langer's lab, and Polaris have funded over two thirds of these.
After the conferral, Professor Langer also officially opened the Bernal Bio Laboratories. These two new labs allow researchers space for work in the areas of bioprocessing and bioengineering, and are extensions of the existing Institute.
In summary, an amazing event to be invited to - thanks to University of Limerick for the initiation and congratulations to Professor Langer, the seminar series speakers, and to all involved in organising the conferral and the opening of the new laboratories.
Professor Langer commented that he was 'very much look[ing] forward to seeing significant research developments emerge from [UL] in the years to come' - and I'd have to concur! I'll be looking forward to seeing advances from Bernal Bio Labs in future - stay tuned for updates!
For Silicon Republic's coverage of the same event, click here.