MIT Scientist Bob Langer Becomes a Billionaire Thanks to Moderna Stock Boom

The pharmaceutical company recently announced the success in testing its vaccine against Covid-19


For the third time this year, a rise in the share price of Moderna, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology and pharmaceutical company, has coined a new billionaire. Newcomer to the 10-figure club is Robert Langer, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a prolific scientist with more than 1,000 patents. His 3% stake in the company is now worth more than $1 billion.


Moderna shares rose nearly 7% yesterday (12), a day after the company announced that it had collected enough data for phase three testing of its vaccine against Covid-19, which will now be submitted to an independent board for analysis. The news comes three days after another pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, reported positive test results of its own Covid-19 vaccine, developed with German biotechnology company BioNTech, which uses messenger RNA technology, similar to that used by Moderna. Forbes estimates that Langer is worth around $1.1 billion, with his fortune made up largely of shares in Moderna, as well as smaller stakes in publicly traded biotech startups such as Frequency Therapeutics, SQZ Biotechnologies and Lyra Therapeutics.


He follows in the footsteps of other major shareholders in the company, such as CEO Stéphane Bancel (US$ 2.7 billion) and professor and biotechnology investor Timothy Springer (US$ 1.5 billion), who surpassed the mark of a billion dollars when Moderna’s share price soared in April and May. “I have been privileged to be involved with Moderna since its early days,” Langer said in an emailed statement to Forbes.


“I was initially inspired by the promise of messenger RNA as the potential foundation for a transformative platform for new drugs and vaccines. That promise is being fulfilled.”


It’s a decision that has served the scientist well – Moderna’s shares have risen more than 390% since the start of the year. Langer joined MIT as a professor of nutritional biochemistry in 1978 and later established his own laboratory, LangerLab, in the university’s chemical engineering department, which he still leads today. Interestingly, the first investor in Moderna, which is based across the street from Langer’s office in Cambridge, is an MIT graduate who received his doctorate in chemical engineering in 1974 after earning his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. In addition to now possessing a ten-figure fortune, he is also a multiple award winner and is estimated to be the most cited engineer in history, with over 320,000 Google Scholar citations and over 1,500 published articles.


His postdoctoral students at LangerLab have launched their own biotech companies — such as SQZ Biotechnologies itself and Frequency Therapeutics, in which Langer owns stakes — with Langer assisting as an investor and board member. Langer’s investment in Moderna is his most profitable bet yet — and the professor has never wavered in his belief that the company’s ideas could be a big hit.


“In addition to the promise of Moderna’s technology platform, I was also impressed by its leadership teams and committed employees,” he said. “So much so that I haven’t sold a single Moderna share since the company was founded.”