Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO

The 2024 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience awarded to Professor Robert S. Langer

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters June 12th announced the 2024 Kavli Prize Laureates in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. Among these are Robert S. Langer (USA), sharing the 2024 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience with Armand Paul Alivisatos (USA) and Chad A. Mirkin (USA).

Portrait photo of Bob Langer at the CCBIO symposium.
CCBIO, Ingvild Festervoll Melien

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The 2024 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience honors Langer, Alivisatos and Mirkin for having revolutionized the field of nanomedicine by demonstrating how engineering nanoscale materials can advance biomedical research and applications. Their discoveries contributed fundamentally to the development of therapeutics, diagnostics, vaccines, and bioimaging. Read the full committee announcement here.

The other Kavli Prizes 2024 are:

  • In Astrophysics: David Charbonneau (Canada/USA) and Sara Seager (Canada/USA).
  • In Neuroscience: Nancy Kanwisher (USA), Winrich Freiwald (Germany) and Doris Ying Tsao (USA).

Great relationship with Bergen

CCBIO has had the pleasure of hosting Bob Langer on several occasions. First, in the lockdown year of 2021 when Langer presented the Falch Lecture on a live streaming from MIT, and next year’s in-person appearance in Bergen, giving the opening keynote presentation at the 10th CCBIO Annual Symposium. Here, he shared with the CCBIO community his vast experience from being a young scientist, through his first paper and first talk, the startup of his first company, overcoming scepticism and barriers, and achieving great successes throughout his career. 

During his Bergen visit, Langer had a very fruitful session with CCBIO’s Masterclass group, leaving a strong impression on the young and promising scientists. His visit was also covered by national TV2, where he particularly commented on his role in the foundation of Moderna and development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

The legacy of Judah Folkman

During his memorable Falch Lecture, Langer emphasized that it is essential for young researchers to have good mentors and role models. Langer himself was an "apprentice" to cancer researcher Judah Folkman when he was a postdoc. Folkman is known for his pioneering research on tumors and how they develop blood vessels to nourish themselves and promote their growth and spread. The same Folkman was also a mentor to Lars A. Akslen since 2004-2005 when he did a sabbatical at Harvard Medical School and the Vascular Biology Program (VBP) at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). Many collaborations in research and education between CCBIO and the VBP network were further developed in the years to come, among other the successful program “the Bergen-Harvard Cancer Studies: A Partnership for Excellent Education and Research.”
Langer’s close collaborator and mentee Omid Farokhzad, at the time professor at Harvard Medical School, now CEO of Seer, presented at the 7th CCBIO Annual Symposium. As a keynote speaker on the issue of innovation, Farokhzad gave an inspiring talk on turning academic innovations into medical products and technologies with great impact on lives and society.

An inspiring innovator

"Many congratulations to Bob Langer for this great achievement and honor – it is so very much deserved” says Lars A. Akslen, Director of CCBIO and also a member of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. 

“For several decades, Langer has been a unique scientist and innovator, not only working on basic mechanisms but also moving the results to patients. He is an extraordinary inspirator and motivator – a true giant in today’s science landscape”, Akslen comments.

Yves Aubert, innovation lead for the University of Bergen, visited Bob Langer at his laboratory at MIT in 2018 to establish an institutional contact through CCBIO.

“The 2024 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience is a fitting recognition of an unparalleled scientific career”, Aubert comments. “Langer’s track-record as scientist, inventor and entrepreneur is unmatched. As the world has just endured its most destructive pandemic in a century, we were able to witness how a new biomedical technology, based on principles established by Langer going back to 1976, has been deployed in record speed to provide a solution to a global public health crisis.” Aubert is convinced that this is just the beginning of therapeutic breakthroughs enabled by nanoparticle delivery systems that were pioneered by Langer and his group. “Growing on the scientific foundations laid by Langer and his colleagues, we will see major advancements in the areas of oncology, cardiology, psychiatry and antibiotic resistance in the near future.”

Aubert urges the biomedical community in general, and CCBIO in particular, to take inspiration from Langer. 

“What sets Langer apart from most of his peers is his ability to both make fundamental discoveries and to translate them into therapies and diagnostic devices that already today help millions of people globally. For CCBIO, it is unique opportunity to be in a position to take direct advice from Bob Langer. This will allow CCBIO to expand from a Center of (research) Excellence into a full innovation center that will bring solutions to cancer patients around the world.”

Ceremony in Oslo in September

The Kavli Prizes will be awarded in the Kavli Prize Week September 1-5, 2024. Held primarily in Oslo, Norway, the Kavli Prize Week includes lectures by the laureates on their groundbreaking discoveries, a special ceremony and banquet held in honor of the laureates, and science symposia on the three prize fields. Popular lectures and public presentations are also held in both Oslo and Trondheim. 

Also read the story A scientific road not taken, as told by Robert S. Langer.