UB faculty member Paras Prasad has received an honorary doctorate from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden (KTH) for his pioneering work in areas including the use of light-based technologies to address important, global health problems.
Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB departments of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering, traveled to Stockholm to accept the degree at a ceremony on Nov. 15.
In a career spanning more than three decades, Prasad, executive director of UB’s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics (ILPB), has been a driving force in establishing the field of biophotonics, which blends biology with photonics, the study and development of new technologies based upon manipulation of light.
He has used biophotonics to advance the field of nanomedicine, which employs tiny particles as tools for diagnosing and treating disease.
“Paras was an early leader in biophotonics and nanomedicine, long before either of these fields was well known,” says Mark Swihart, UB professor of chemical and biological engineering. “Paras’ book, ‘Introduction to Biophotonics,’ has helped to shape the development of this rapidly growing field over the past decade.”
In Sweden, Prasad has a long track record of collaboration with KTH staff, working on joint research and acting as an external adviser in two grant-funded KTH projects in biotechnology and nanotechnology.
He also has taken part in the development of KTH by sharing his knowledge and ideas with students. He was lead lecturer of a summer school in biophotonics 10 years ago, and since then has hosted exchange students and postdoctoral researchers from KTH in his lab.
“Professor Prasad’s support has meant a lot to us at KTH — not only with regards to specific research projects, but also through the way he shares his knowledge with our students and enables us to be a part of his worldwide network of research contacts,” says Professor Hans Agren, head of the Department of Theoretical Chemistry and Biology at KTH and a longtime collaborator.
Worldwide, Prasad has received recognition for his groundbreaking ideas and experiments. In 2005, he was named to Scientific American magazine’s annual list of 50 outstanding leaders in science and technology. His research has contributed to the creation of several spinoff companies, including Nanobiotix, a French firm that recently completed a successful IPO.
Under Prasad’s leadership, ILPB has created novel, ultrasensitive imaging techniques. These new tools combine various optical phenomena to allow scientists to observe and study specific molecules inside a biological specimen, promoting a better understanding of cellular processes and aiding drug discovery.
More recently, Prasad helped direct an international team in conducting what are believed to be the first studies showing certain nanosized, luminescent crystals to be safe in primates. Doctors could one day use these crystals, called quantum dots, in image-guided surgery, light-activated therapies and sensitive diagnostic tests.
Prasad’s research group currently is developing nanodevices that contain imaging and sensing probes capable of conducting cellular, tissue-level and whole-body imaging. These tiny gadgets also would house a therapeutic payload, enabling doctors to release drugs inside a patient’s body and monitor the effectiveness of the treatment in real time.
“When we first starting working on nanotechnology many years ago, it was all very new,” Prasad says. “We had only ideas and dreams about where this technology could take us, and what types of problems it could help solve. We pursued our experiments with vigor, and it’s satisfying to see how far the field has come.”