From Basic Biological Science to Market Success:
How Bob Langer Changes the World
By Shlomo Maital
Bob Langer is a renowned MIT scientist. His famous lab has generated an endless stream of inventions that benefit mankind, including radical new methods for controlled-release drug delivery. This is important – when we swallow a pill, the concentration of the drug in our blood rises, then falls, then rises again when we take another. Controlled-release technology keeps the level of the drug constant, in our blood stream, so that it is more effective.
Prof. Langer shared his ‘secret of success’ in a recent article in Nature Biotechnology, 31 (6), June 2013. It includes 3 “P’s”: platform, paper, patent.
* Platform: develop a technology that can be used over and over in different applications and technologies. E.g., his method for controlled release drug delivery systems also found use in microspheres for food applications, e.g. fat substitutes.
* Paper: Publish your results in a high profile journal; “peer review validates the idea”. You can of course file for a patent within a year of publishing the paper.
* Patent: “ideally, file a blocking patent, that protects the platform, and all the ways it can be used and applied”.
Platform, paper and patent – all persuade investors of the validity of the idea. Add to this two more P’s: P of P, proof of principle — show the technology is viable. Speed is vital, adds Langer; the more rapidly you can get to clinical trials, the better. And you need a champion. Langer’s champions are his doctoral students, who develop technologies in their Ph.D. theses, then go on to found companies. Langer often serves on the board, makes introductions, helps get financing. Langer himself is a bench scientist, and focuses exclusively on scientific research. But his vision has led to many many spin-off companies emerging from his lab. At a time when many biotech startups fail, Langer appears to have developed a winning formula. If I were in biotech, I would study the Langer Lab formula closely.