Langer Wins Millennium Technology Prize, World’s Biggest Innovation Award

Xconomy Boston — 

Robert Langer is $1.2 million richer today. Langer, a renowned tissue engineer and drug delivery expert at MIT (and an Xconomist), has won the Millennium Technology Prize in Helsinki. It’s the world’s largest award for technology innovation, and is given to developers of a technology that “significantly improves the quality of human life, today and in the future.”

Langer, 59, has won a lot of awards in his career, but this is an especially big one. Past winners include World Wide Web pioneer Tim Berners Lee and Shuji Nakamura, developer of light-emitting diodes, according to the prize website. This year, Langer edged out Alec Jeffreys, developer of DNA fingerprinting techniques, and wireless pioneer Andrew Viterbi, founder of Qualcomm, among others.

The prize was awarded for Langer’s body of work fighting cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, according to a statement from the prize board. More than 100 million people are using advanced drug delivery systems, and the number is growing.

“It’s such a great honor — particularly given the quality of the people who have won it before as well as the quality of the innovations and people considered this year,” Langer told the MIT News Office.

So what does he plan to do with the money? “It’s so sudden, we haven’t figured it out yet,” Langer says via e-mail from Helsinki, where he accepted the prize.