Chemistry Researcher Earns Prestigious Allen Distinguished Investigator Award

December 15, 2022 • by Esther Robards-Forbes
Yi Lu smiling

Yi Lu, a professor of chemistry and the Richard J. V. Johnson – Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry, has been honored with an Allen Distinguished Investigator award, it was announced today.

The award, given by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation as recommended by The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute, seeks to fund projects and research in bioscience that have the potential to change the world. Lu's research sets out to use engineered DNA to study and observe small nutrient molecules, such as sodium ions and sugar, in single cells. The engineered DNA fluoresces, or glows, in the presence of different molecules.

Small nutrient molecules can be difficult to capture using typical microscopy techniques. Even current methods that can detect them can sometimes have difficulty differentiating between similarly sized or charged molecules. Lu and his team aim to develop a generalizable approach for visualizing nutrients in single cells with highly selective DNA fluorescent sensors and by developing methods to send these sensors to different parts of the cell simultaneously to visualize multiple metabolites in the same cell.

Sixteen researchers from around the world, including Lu, were named among this year's investigators. They have proposed eight cutting-edge projects in nutrient sensing and protein lifespan, with each project receiving up to $1.25 million for their research.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation was founded by philanthropists Jody Allen and the late Paul G. Allen, co- founder of Microsoft. The Foundation invests in grantees to leverage technology, fill data and science gaps, and drive positive public policy to advance knowledge and enable lasting change.