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Kyoto Prize Winner Robert Langer on Innovations to Come in Drug Delivery and Bioengineering

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be a very big area. Some of the innovations go across the board. What we just talked about with Viacyte is a great example of tissue engineering, because that involves cell therapies, with better materials; better design of systems that will enable diabetes treatment is certainly one area.
So there are many examples. They range from better cell-therapy kinds of approaches to basic research in learning how to control stem cell growth and differentiation. There are new materials advances, which could include what we just talked about with better materials and better compatibility. There are other properties that you want to do too.

For example, we have a big project with Steve Zeitels [of Massachusetts General Hospital] who is the surgeon for Julie Andrews and other singers. We’re trying to create gels that you could use to replace vocal cords, and that includes a whole range of properties that you want to have. That’s true across the board for any tissue or organ. You want to create just the right materials for that tissue or organ. If you try to make new vocal cords, that’s one set of challenges. New blood vessels is another set of challenges. Heart muscle, that’s another set. It goes on and on.

So what you see in tissue engineering are advances at a basic level, both in terms of understanding the cell therapies, and then in advances in materials to create new kinds of materials, and finally with each tissue or organ there are specific challenges that are critical in enabling you to ultimately make that tissue or organ.

Right now, there is FDA-approved skin, and we see in many cases various clinical trials going on in a lot of areas. For example, there are clinical trials going on to create new corneas, new spinal cords, new cartilage. There are many exciting areas going on with respect to individual therapies, and then there is this broader work that affects all of them.

Kyoto Prize Ceremony 2014 (courtesy Inamori Foundation)

Kyoto Prize Ceremony 2014 (courtesy Inamori Foundation)

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