Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives

Laura Motta-Mena, Ph.D.

CEO and co-founder of Optologix, Inc.

"From Academia to the Commercial Sector: Lessons Learned from a Researcher-Entrepreneur"


Dr. Motta-Mena received her PhD degree in Biological Chemistry from UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSWMC). She worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in Prof. Kevin Gardner’s group at UTSWMC and CUNY’s Advanced Science Research Center. Dr. Motta-Mena is currently co-founder and CEO of Optologix, Inc., provider of light-controlled genetic toolkits for biomedical research. She is also a graduate of the 2015 Bio & Health Tech Entrepreneurship Lab NYC and the 2016 Health Wildcatters Accelerator.




Laura B. Motta-Mena,

PhD Optologix, Inc., Dallas, TX, USA

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For many of us in the life sciences, undergraduate research gave us a head start in our research careers. In my presentation I will speak to my own experience as an undergraduate researcher, my decision to pursue a doctoral degree, and my move into the commercial sector by forming my own biotechnology startup company called Optologix. Optologix is based on a patented, genetic technology called LITE Switch, which I developed during my post-doctoral training. LITE Switch technology is a DNA-based research tool that allows medical researchers to use light, instead of drugs, to ‘turn on’ a gene inside of a cultured cell or model organism. It is the first commercial product of its kind on the market. By offering an eco-friendly solution to regulating gene expression, LITE Switch avoids the many toxic side effects of drug-triggered research tools. Because light can be localized to a specific spot on a cell or tissue, users can limit gene activation to certain cells and reverse this effect by simply turning off the light. LITE Switch is currently in use in more than 70 academic and industry laboratories worldwide, where researchers have found new and interesting applications for it.