Blogs » Agriculture » Story of Moderna Professor

Story of Moderna Professor

  • It’s the story of struggle in #academia and an inspiration for all of us. Robert Langer’s discovery was groundbreaking. And yet it was rejected.

    1. After getting #PhD from MIT, Robert Langer applied for postdoc positions in the medical industry. But no one hired him. - Why? Because his PhD was in #ChemicalEngineering, not medicine.

    2. Robert was advised to try Judah Folkman, a prof. at Harvard and surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital. - Why him? Because Prof. Folkman was known for hiring people with UNUSUAL backgrounds.

    3. In Folkman's group, Robert took on a challenge to find a method to deliver angiogenesis-inhibiting drugs to the tumor: “I spent years in the laboratory experimenting with different materials and different designs to deliver the drugs. I found 200 different ways NOT to get this done.”

    4. Eventually, he succeeded. His method was to use nanoparticles that can encase the drug molecules, attach to the tumor and then release them. - This was published in Nature in 1976. But it was TOO innovative.

    5. His first presentation of this work was dismissed: “When I first presented this work, it was ridiculed. I was 27 years old, the youngest person in that room. When I finished the talk, I thought all these older people would encourage me as a young researcher. But as I stepped off the podium, a bunch of them came up to me and said, ‘We don’t believe anything you just said’.” - Why? Apparently no one believed that large molecules could be released this way.

    6. To continue his research, Robert Langer decided to search for a faculty position. However, no one hired him. - Why? Because Chemical Engineering faculties did NOT want to see biology in their departments.

    7. Eventually, he got a position at the MIT’s nutrition department. But then he was advised to leave by his colleagues. - Why? Because they found out about his “unusual research field”: “One evening, I went to a faculty dinner with some senior MIT professors. When a senior scientist heard my concept for drug delivery, he blew a cloud of smoke in my face and said,

    ‘You better start looking for another job’.” But he stayed.

    8. He tried to file a patent for his drug delivery. No success. It took 5 years to it get accepted. - Why? Because only external references from prominent scientists that praised his work could convince the patent office.

    9. Eventually, he pushed it all through. During his later career, he has been able to:

    - File over 1,200 patents and license them to > 300 companies.

    - Become the most cited engineer in history - (Co-)found 41 companies.

    - Co-found Moderna, the pharma and biotech giant in the US “I am a really stubborn person.”

    - Robert Langer.

    My point is: You can be extremely smart. Even genius. But without inexhaustible persistence your brilliant ideas will not propagate far. Be stubborn. Be devoted. Be determined. Don’t give up. #engineering #science #research #students #careeradvice