Samuel Achilefu, PhD, the Michel M. Ter-Pogossian Professor of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is the 2019 recipient of the SPIE Britton Chance Award in Biomedical Optics. SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, gives the award annually to recognize outstanding lifetime achievements in the field of biomedical optics. Honorees are recognized for developing innovative technologies with the potential for high impact in advancing the study of biology or medicine.
Achilefu was honored for his groundbreaking work in molecular and optical imaging that has advanced cancer research and patient care.
He and his research team study molecular imaging methods and have developed numerous technologies that harness this knowledge to help visualize cancer cells and eradicate them. One such technology is a type of goggles that help surgeons see cancerous cells during surgeries to remove tumors. A molecular agent makes the cancer cells glow when viewed through the head-mounted display, allowing the surgeon to be more accurate in extracting the entire tumor and minimizing the removal of healthy tissue.
Achilefu holds numerous appointments and leadership positions at Washington University, including as a professor of medicine, of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and of biomedical engineering. He is also director of the Molecular Imaging Center and of the Center for Multiple Myeloma Nanotherapy. Achilefu co-leads the Oncologic Imaging Program at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. He is also vice chair of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the university's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.