Robert Langer's Formula for Start-Up Success

Medtech start-ups need five things in order to succeed, says Langer, who has launched at least 27 companies.


Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Insitute Professor at MIT, has more than 800 pending and issued patents, which have been licensed to hundreds of companies, including medical device manufacturers. Langer, who will receive the 2013 MDEA Lifetime Achievement Award next month, has also launched more than two dozen start-ups based on the groundbreaking discoveries and advances he has made in fields including drug delivery, tissue engineering, nanotechnology, and personalized medicine.

“Our track record has been very good in terms of investors getting a good return on the companies we’ve started,” he says.

Langer is acutely aware of how difficult it is for today's medtech start-ups, which face hurdles including a tough funding environment and regulatory uncertainty. I spoke with him recently about what it takes to make it as a start-up these days. 

Here's his formula:

  1. Start with a breakthrough idea that’s been published in a top journal like Science or Nature.

  2. Have a patent—ideally a blocking patent.

  3. Get proof of principal in animals.

  4. Have some type of platform, not just a one-step product. You want to have multiple shots on goal. If it’s a drug-delivery device, for example, you could put different drugs in it.

  5. Have passion. Be willing to walk through walls to make it work.

 Jamie Hartford is the managing editor of MD+DI.

Related Content

Robert Langer, MIT Institute Professor, to Receive MDEA Lifetime Achievement Award

MIT's Robert Langer Discusses Issues Facing the Medtech Industry


Medical Design Excellence Awards 2013: A Legacy of Innovation

MDEA 2013 Finalists