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Dr Samuel Achilefu is a remarkable Nigerian-born Scientist and medical researcher who has pioneered both fundamental and applied research in science, engineering, and medicine. He is the Michel M. Ter-Pogossian Professor of Radiology and Vice-Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine.
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He holds joint appointments as a professor of Medicine, Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics, and Biomedical Engineering. He currently serves as the Director of the Washington University Molecular Imaging Center and the privately funded Theranostic Innovation Program. He is co-Director of the Center for Multiple Myeloma Nanotherapy and co-Leader of the Oncologic Imaging Program of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University.

Mind-Boggling Achievements in Research

Dr Achilefu is a world-renowned expert in the development and use of light-sensitive drugs for cancer detection, imaging, and therapy. Recently, he conceived and led the development of a novel wearable cancer viewing goggles for the accurate removal of cancer cells during surgery. The cancer goggle works on the principle of optical imaging.  Optical imaging enables real-time visualization of intrinsic and exogenous contrast within biological tissues. Cancer goggles are designed to make it easier for surgeons to distinguish malignant cells from healthy cells, helping to ensure that no stray tumour cells are left behind during surgery to remove a cancerous tumour. He also discovered a novel treatment paradigm for cancer using a special type of light and non-pharmacological doses of drugs to selectively trigger cancer cell death without harming healthy tissue. These and many other innovations have resulted in 59 issued US patents and over 300 scientific papers.

Education And Fellowship

Achilefu earned his PhD from the University of Nancy in France as a French Government Scholar and his postdoctoral training at Oxford University in England. He was recruited from Oxford to St. Louis to work for Mallinckrodt Medical in 1993 and joined the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University in 2001, where he established the more than 80-member renowned Optical Radiology program at the School of Medicine. Dr Achilefu is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors as well as many professional societies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Optical Society of America, the International Society for Optics and Photonics Engineers (SPIE), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the St. Louis Academy of Science. A member of the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NACBIB) and the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Cancer Institute’s intramural Molecular Imaging Program, he also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Current Analytical Chemistry and an editorial board member of many scientific publications. Dr Achilefu is a former trustee of Loma Linda University in California. He was a member of the College of Reviewers for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and served as a member and chair of grant review panels for the NIH, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Dr. Achilefu has received over 30 local, national, and international honors and awards, including the prestigious Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award in 2019 at SPIE, Distinguished Investigator Award in 2018 (Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research), the Carl and Gerty Cori Faculty Achievement Award in 2018 (Washington University), Excellence in Healthcare Award in 2017 (St. Louis American), the first Department of Defense Distinguished Investigator Award in 2016 (DoD Breast Cancer Research Program), IEEE Donald G. Fink Award (2016), Outstanding Scientist Award in 2015 (St. Louis Academy of Science), Best Global Impact 2015 (Alive magazine), St. Louis Innovator Award 2015, the Medical Innovation Award in 2014 (St. Louis Business Journal), St. Louis Award in 2014 (St. Louis Award Committee), Featured Innovator 2014 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek), Achiever Award 2008 (Blacks in Science), Extraordinary Performance Award 1998 (Mallinckrodt, Inc.), and Technical Innovation Award 1995 (Mallinckrodt Medical, Inc.).

Appearances in Public Media

Dr Achilefu is featured in many public media. Some examples include:
  • Physics Worlds – Optics and Photonics Spotlight
  • SPIE announces 2019 Society Awards
  • Scientists Report Advances in Light-source Medicine to Help Fight Metastatic Cancer
  • National Public Radio; Story Collider: When science complicates home and family
  • 2018 AAAS Fellows approved by the AAAS Council
  • Tumour imaging technique has potential as an anti-cancer weapon, mouse study shows
  • Glasses that make cancer glow
  • New ‘Cancer Goggles’ help surgeons spot malignant tumours
  • Hi-tech goggles ‘detect cancer cells”
  • Cancer-Spotting Goggles Help Surgeons Remove Diseased Cells

Honours And Awards

Some of Dr Achilefu’s honours and awards include:
  • 1995   Technical Innovation Award, Mallinckrodt Medical, Inc.
  • 1998 Extraordinary Performance Award, Mallinckrodt, Inc.
  • 2001-present Editorial Board, Journal of Biomedical Optics
  • 2002-present Co-Editor, Proceedings of the SPIE on Molecular Reporters/Probes for Biomedical Applications
  • 2004-2008 Member, Microscopic Imaging Study Section, National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • 2004-2008 Member, Breast Cancer and Era of Hope Scholars peer-review panels, Department of Health (DoD)
  • 2008 Achiever Award, St. Louis Science Center
  • 2008 Fellow, SPIE – International society for optics and photonics
  • 2009-2018 Member, NIH Medical Imaging Study Section
  • 2010-2015 Overseas Distinguished International Professor, China Pharmaceutical University
  • 2011 Chair, SBIR Molecular Imaging and Cell Biology Study Section, NIH
  • 2011 SPIE Fellow, International Society for Optics and Photonics
  • 2011 St Louis innovator award, Alive magazine 2011
  • 2012-2016 Member, Board of Trustees, Loma Linda University, CA
  • 2013-present Editorial Board, Scientific Reports
  • 2014 Medical Innovator Award, St. Louis Business Journal
  • 2014 Inventor, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (March 2014)
  • 2014 Louis Award
  • 2014 Outstanding scientist fellow award, academy of Science
  • 2014-present Editor-in-Chief, Current Analytical Chemistry
  • 2015 Louis Innovator Award (Alive magazine)
  • 2015 Fellow, Academy of Science – St. Louis
  • 2016 Donald G. Fink Award, IEEE
  • 2016 Fellow, the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • 2017 Fellow, Optical Society of America
  • 2017 Louis American Excellence in Healthcare Award
  • 2018 Fellow, National Academy of Inventors
  • 2018 Carl and Gerty Cori Faculty Achievement Award
  • 2018 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • 2019 Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award
  • 2019 Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE)
  • 2019 SPIE Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award
  • 2020 Member, National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, NIH
  • 2020 Fellow, Royal Society of Medicine
Sources: Cancerletter Emedevents Wikipedia Featured Image Source: Refined NG
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This article was first published on 19th June 2021 and updated on December 8th, 2021 at 1:40 pm


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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