An assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan State University since 2016, Dr. Sophia Lunt’s research focuses on the role of metabolism in supporting cancer proliferation, heterogeneity, and metastasis. She and her team investigate metabolic regulation in cancer and aim to use metabolic targeting to design effective, personalized therapies for the complex disease.
Dr. Lunt earned her PhD in chemistry from Princeton University where she discovered a passion for cancer research. She then completed her postdoctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was awarded the Department of Defense (DoD) Visionary Postdoctoral Fellowship. Her numerous awards include the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)-Incyte Corporation NextGen Award for Transformative Cancer Research, the Mayo Clinic Metabolomics Research Award, the DoD Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award, and the Agilent Technologies Applications and Core Technology University Research Award.
In July of 2017, Dr. Lunt disclosed her first invention through MSU Technologies. The groundbreaking technology is a platform for optoelectronic tuning of fluorescent organic salts to control toxicity in cells.
Precise tissue imaging and selective treatment without side effects remain major challenges in modern medicine. Fluorescent dyes offer great potential as diagnostic agents, but suffer from low brightness, non-specific toxicity in live cells, and limited tissue penetration. Dr. Lunt’s technology directly addresses and eliminated these issues, which will have a major impact on diagnostics.
Her invention, developed in collaboration with Dr. Richard Lunt, fine-tunes fluorescent probes for new capabilities in mammalian cells. It allows for greater optoelectronic control, significantly impacting tissue penetration, brightness levels for efficient photoactivation and imaging, and elimination of non-specific cellular toxicity to avoid off-target effects. This work has the potential to transform fluorescent probes for broad societal impact through applications ranging from biomedicine to solar cells.
“Talk to other inventors about their experiences and hurdles,” Dr. Lunt advises any faculty and students looking to disclose an invention. “And be persistent!”