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Langer scoops Millennium Prize

Bioengineer Prof Robert Langer was presented with the 2008 Millennium Technology Prize by Finnish President Tarja Halonen at a ceremony in Helsinki on 11 June.

Langer, institute professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), won the award for his pioneering work in novel biomaterials that can be used to deliver drugs steadily over time, and provide a scaffold on which to grow new tissues and organs, which then dissolves leaving the natural tissue. His work has contributed to greatly increased survivability in patients with many different types of cancer, the regrowth of skin for severe burns victims and the construction of cartilage.

The Millennium Prize is awarded every second year by the Technology Academy Finland, a foundation jointly established by Finnish industry and government. It is the world’s largest technology prize with a total value of €1.15m (£900,000). It recognises technological innovations which greatly improve the quality of human life and sustainable development.

Five other 2008 Millennium Prize laureates were recognised for three vital innovations.

Leicester University’s Prof Sir Alec Jeffreys was nominated for his work in DNA fingerprinting, which has revolutionised forensic science, helping identify criminals and free innocent parties worldwide. It is also extensively used to resolve innumerable paternity and immigration disputes and to identify inherited conditions.

Dr Andrew Viterbi of the Jet Propulsion Lab in California developed his eponymous algorithm which helps distinguish signal from noise in telecommunications. It is used in many different types of technology including mobile telecommunications, satellite television and MP3 players.

A team consisting of Dr Randy Giles, Prof Emmanuel Desurvire and Prof David Payne, from Southampton University, were put forward for their work on erbium-doped fibre amplifiers (EDFAs). EDFAs boost the signal in optical fibres to expand bandwidth and allow the high-capacity global network which carries internet and telecommunications signals.

Previous winners were Tim Berners-Lee in 2004 for his invention of the world-wide web and Shuji Nakamura in 2006 for developing blue, green and white LEDs and the blue laser.


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