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Meet the board: Questions and Answers with Dr. Murphy

Dr. Catherine J. Murphy

Dr. Catherine J. MurphyDr Catherine J Murphy is the Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr Murphy is known for her work on gold nanorods and has won numerous awards for her research. She was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2014 and was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2015. Dr Murphy is a key member of our scientific advisory board.

What is your current role/position?

I am the Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

What are your current areas of interest/research?

My group’s research focuses on the synthesis, surface chemistry, and physical properties of inorganic nanomaterials, especially gold nanorods; we also study these nanomaterials’ interactions with biological molecules, cells, organisms and ecosystems.

How did you first become involved with Sona?

The founders of Sona called me up to discuss science early on; later, I was invited to be on the scientific advisory board.

What makes Sona different to other companies operating in this market?

What makes Sona different? No CTAB! One of the prerequisites for a “chemical formulation” to be used in the clinic is that none of the components be obviously “toxic.” CTAB is a surfactant, which means it is a detergent, which means it will break open cell walls at some concentration. Sure, we can do all kinds of surface chemistry to mitigate this, but in the end, there is a lot of resistance in the clinic to using anything “toxic.”  This is one reason why quantum dots have not made it into the clinic – the minute the medical staff hear that there is cadmium in them, they say, “forget it!”.

Gold nanorods that have been synthesized and stabilized without CTAB are obviously a safer alternative. The fact that such a particle is commercially available today is astonishing. This could be a very important step forward for a number of promising clinical methods

What do you think of the potential of Sona’s technology?

The potential is high!

What developments involving gold nanoparticles/nanorods can we expect to see in future?

I think the diagnostic and clinical applications of gold nanorods are going to increase; the field needs more clinical trials in the realm of photothermal therapy. The nanoshells developed by Nanospectra Biosciences, which also can do photothermal therapy in the near-infrared, are looking very successful for treating prostate cancer in human patients. Gold nanorods ought to be able to do as well, if not better, than that.

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