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Robert Langer, a chemical engineer whose work with polymers helped pave the way for implantable drug-delivery devices and tissue engineering, won the nation's richest prize for medicine and biomedical research Friday.

The $500,000 Albany Medical Center Prize is second only to the $1.4 million Nobel Prize in cash value. Langer, 56, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won the award for a prolific body of work highlighted by the development of surgically implanted devices that regulate medication delivery to millions of heart and cancer patients, said James J. Barba, chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center.

Langer developed a biodegradable polymer that can be pressed into a tiny wafer to deliver chemotherapy directly to a tumor site. He formulated related polymers honeycombed with microscopic channels that allow for a slow, steady release of medication. That work helped lead to a drug-shedding stent for cardiac patients that reduces the chance of blockages forming in arteries.

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