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Ramanujam Wins 2020 SPIE Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award

Nimmi Ramanujam was cited for the development of disruptive low-cost, high-performance technologies to enable see-and-treat paradigms for cervical cancer prevention

Nimmi Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies at Duke University, has been named the winner of the 2020 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award.

The award is presented for extraordinary achievements in biophotonics technology development that show strong promise or potential impact in biology, medicine, and biomedical optics. Ramanujam was recognized for her development of disruptive low-cost, high-performance technologies to enable see-and-treat paradigms for cervical cancer prevention.

“Cervical cancer is a disease of excess mortality. This is the one cancer that can be prevented through well-established interventions, and if these interventions were available to all women I believe the cervical cancer mortality rate would plummet,” says Ramanujam. “My work is aimed toward bringing complex services traditionally offered at hard-to-reach referral settings to primary care.”

Ramanujam has developed multiple highly impactful innovations to address the needs of global women's health. Most notably, the Point-of-Care Tampon (POCkeT) Colposcope is designed to increase access to cervical cancer screening and diagnostics in low- and middle-income areas through community based health centers and the Callascope would further democratize screening through home-based exams. Ramanujam and her team have also developed a liquid scalpel based on low-cost ablative techniques to effectively and immediately treat pre-invasive lesions, and AI algorithms that enable on-site decision-making.

Ramanujam has also recently received a Fulbright Global Scholar Award, the 2019 WIMIN Outstanding Leadership Award, 2019 Social Impact Abie Award and the 2018 Velji Award for Global Health. She was also elected to the National Academy of Inventors.

"Nimmi has been a tenacious driver of in vivo optical imaging for disease diagnosis and therapeutic guidance, particularly in cancer," notes Brian C. Wilson, a senior scientist at Toronto's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and a professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto. "She has also demonstrated an unusual ability to move concepts and technologies from bench to bedside, as well as develop optical technologies for global health. In addition, she is an active champion of biophotonics education, particularly as a way to attract more girls into science and technology as career options. She is an exceptional role model in this important mission."