Head of the largest bioengineering lab in the world, former chairman of the FDA and one of the few recipients of the National Medals of Science and of Technology and Innovation, MIT Professor Bob Langer’s work has spanned multiple fields and settings and has been applied across numerous fields, from pharmaceutical to chemical, biotechnology to medical device companies. What does it mean to move across disciplines like this, and from science to engineering, both in the lab and into the field?
In this conversation with general partner and head of the a16z bio fund Vijay Pande (with Hanne Tidnam), Langer and Pande share the challenges and opportunities as people move across different disciplines, as well as the changing mindsets for innovation as applied to biotech: first principles, “rational” biology, do no harm, and others.
At the heart of it all is “the interface of engineering and materials” in biology and healthcare innovation. Especially as, thanks to tech, biology shifts from empirical study to engineering — not just in startups but in academia too. Yet does that make the work too “translational”? And what of regulation? The guests on this episode explore all of these themes, and more.