The Edison of Medicine

Publication Source: Harvard Business Review

By Steven Prokesch


One morning last year, James Dahlman came to Bob Langer’s office at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research to say good-bye. He was meeting with Langer and Dan Anderson—his doctoral advisers. The 29-year-old was about to take up his first faculty position, in the biomedical engineering department at Georgia Tech, and he wanted their advice.

“Do something that’s big,” Langer told him. “Do something that really can change the world rather than something incremental.”

These were not just inspirational words for a former student. They are the watchcry that has guided Langer, a chemical engineer and a pioneer in the fields of controlled-release drug delivery and tissue engineering, throughout his four-decade career at MIT. And they are part of the formula that has made Langer Lab one of the most productive research facilities in the world.

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