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Edison of Medicine, Prof Langer views mRNA vaccines as changing the world of medicine, ET HealthWorld

New Delhi: Prof Robert S Langer, co-founded vaccine manufacturer Moderna (MRNA), and his pioneering research led to the development of the first commercial mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. In an exclusive interaction with ETHealthworld’s Prathiba Raju when asked about how mRNA-based medicines have always been doubted, he responded, “I think new things are often doubted. That has happened throughout history; cars, planes, computers, and other new medicines. But these have all changed the world and this (mRNA vaccine) is changing it too.”

Prof Langer is popularly known as the Edison of Medicine and he has also served as a member of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (US FDA) SCIENCE Board, the FDA’s highest advisory board, from 1995 to 2002, and as its Chairman from 1999 to 2002.

Regarding the vision behind establishing Moderna, Prof Langer mentioned, “Science advances helped the stability issues and better manufacturing techniques reduced cost. They are no more expensive than other vaccines now.”

The Professor in his conversation added that Moderna was established with three others – Noubar Afeyan, Kenneth Chien, and Derrick Rossi. Elucidating about the vision, he shared, “Our vision was that it would be a whole new way to create protein therapies and vaccines and to treat diseases that could never be treated before.”

Commenting on how the COVID-19 vaccine accelerated the company’s success, Prof Langer said, “It was a remarkable proof of principle since it was far more than other vaccines. And it brought in funds that enabled the company to accelerate its research.”

Discussing the development of the malaria pill and the contraceptive pill that Prof Langer is working on, he stated, “This work was initially funded by the Gates Foundation and is now being developed by another company, Lyndra. The malaria pill lasts for two weeks as opposed to a few hours. It is in clinical trials. The birth control pill will be in clinical trials soon hopefully and could be taken monthly.”

Mentioning the evolution of drug delivery and how technology is helping this space, the Professor said, “It’s come a long way since some of the early work in the 1970s. Now every company uses it to deliver drugs more safely and effectively and it has enabled entirely new treatments for cancer, heart diseases, and many others.”

Prof Langer is a globally renowned scientist who holds over 1,000 patents; has published over 1,000 articles; oversees a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) lab that has served as an incubator for 40 companies; when questioned on what failure means to a scientist, he concluded, “I think it goes to that old adage – if at first, you don’t succeed, try try and try again. Science can be hard. If you believe, you keep trying.”

  • Published On May 19, 2023 at 02:43 PM IST

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