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Laser-focused MSU professor has wide innovative reach

Compressing Marcos Dantus’ career as an MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Chemistry is a daunting task, and it’s a fundamental idea he is all too familiar with.
 
But Dantus’ impact can be summed up simply as a problem solver. His research in ultrafast lasers, taking a low-intensity, long pulse and compressing it to increase its energy, has earned him the 2019 MSU Technology Transfer Achievement Award. 
 
His life-saving work with ultra-short pulse lasers has contributed to Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics. He has 47 inventions disclosed, over 200 peer-reviewed papers, 30 patents and 16 technologies licensed to industry. 
 
Dantus’ work has helped doctors detect cancer earlier with enhanced optical biopsies. For example, in skin cancer cases, rather than looking at the outermost layer of skin, doctors can see into deeper layers to better determine if a patient has cancer, what kind it is, and its progression using a laser microscope.
 
Away from MSU, Dantus founded/co-founded two successful spin-out ventures: Biophotonic Solutions Inc. and KTM Industries Inc. BSI seeks to make ultrafast laser technology more practical for scientific, medical, industrial and defense applications, while KTM manufactures biodegradable packing materials.
 
Both companies continue to build on the innovative platform Dantus established. BSI, which was acquired by IPG Photonics in 2016, is releasing a highly efficient ultrafast fiber laser for industrial applications. KTM, which produces a natural, biodegradable packaging material called Green Cell Foam, is replacing the use of styrofoam for packaging in wine shipping boxes and coolers.
 
Dantus also has shown an ability to pivot, taking a method originally intended for microscopes and applying it to use lasers to detect a bomb from 40 feet away.
 
The minutia of securing funding and working with patent attorneys arises for a researcher such as Dantus. Working with the MSU Innovation Center has helped him determine what level of IP protection he needed for each of his inventions and the proper funding channels to go through.
 
“As a serial inventor, it is great that I have gotten to work closely with the MSU IC,” Dantus said.