Robert W. Carr, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Ramanujam is an innovator, educator and entrepreneur. Her mission is to develop technology that will have wide reaching impact in women’s health. She directs the center for Global Women’s Health Technologies at Duke where she empowers trainees at Duke and beyond to create impactful solutions to improve the lives of women and girls globally.
Dr. Ramanujam has spent the last two decades developing precision diagnostics and most recently precision therapeutics for breast and cervical cancer, with a focus on addressing health disparities. She has more than 20 patents to-date and over 150 publications for screening, diagnostic, and surgical applications. She has raised over $30M of funding to pursue these innovations through a variety of funding mechanisms including NIH R01s and R21s, NIH Bioengineering Partnerships, NCI Academic Industry Partnerships, NIH Small Business grants and USAID funding. As the founding director of the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies at Duke, she has developed a consortium of over 50+ partners including international academic institutions and hospitals, non-governmental organizations, ministries of health, and commercial partners; this consortium is working to ensure that the technologies developed at the center are adopted by cancer control programs in geographically and economically diverse healthcare settings.
Ramanujam’s research on women’s cancers has centered on translational and laboratory research of relevance to breast and cervical cancer. While her guiding principles are similar across breast and cervical cancer, the technical challenges needed to tackle these cancers are inherently different. In the case of cervical cancer prevention, her focus is to develop strategies that reduce attrition to treatment including early screening and diagnostics. In the breast cancer care cascade, clinical care has principally pivoted towards a focus on how to inform the effectiveness of cancer therapy whether it is surgery or systemic therapy and that is where she has focused her efforts via molecular and metabolic imaging. A third area in her research program focuses on low cost ablative strategies for local control of cancer in resource limited settings. She has also created two companies Zenalux and Calla Health to commercialize her breast and cervical imaging products, respectively. Additionally, she has created three social innovations programs: WISH to impact cervical cancer prevention in low resource settings, IGNITE to scale social innovation education to students globally and the Calla Campaign to bridge inequities in sexual and reproductive health inequities through story-telling and art.
Nimmi has received recognition for her work through the TR100 Young Innovator Award from MIT, the Global Indus Technovator award from MIT, Era of Hope Scholar awards from the DOD, the Stasnell Family award from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke, the Emerging Leader in Global Health Award from the Consortium of Universities in Global Health, the Social Impact Abie Award from AnitaB.org, the Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award from the International Society for Optics and Photonics, and the Women in Molecular Imaging Leadership Award (WIMIN) from the World Molecular Imaging Congress (WMIC). She is a fellow of several optical and biomedical engineering societies including OSA, SPIE and AIMBE. She has also been elected to the National Academy of Inventors and is a Fullbright Fellow. She is co-editor of the Handbook of Biomedical Optics. She has presented the global impact of her work at the United Nations. She has been a TedX speaker.
Appointments and Affiliations
- Robert W. Carr, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering
- Professor of Biomedical Engineering
- Research Professor of Global Health
- Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
- Affiliate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society
- Core Faculty in Innovation & Entrepreneurship
- Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
- Office Location: 367 Gross Hall, 140 Science Drive, Durham, NC 27708
- Office Phone: (919) 660-5307
- Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin, 1995
- M.S. University of Texas at Austin, 1992
- B.S. University of Texas at Austin, 1989
Innovating on optical strategies to peer into the biological landscape of thick tissues. Technologies being developed in her lab leverage principles of optical spectroscopy, optical sectioning microscopy, and molecular imaging. Her research group is developing and applying these optically based tools for three problems in cancer: cancer screening in resource-limited settings, intra-operative margin assessment to detect residual disease during cancer surgery, and visualizing tumor hypoxia and metabolism in the context of cancer therapy and drug discovery. Prof. Ramanujam is leading a multi-disciplinary effort to translate these technologies to clinical applications in the breast, and cervix.
Awards, Honors, and Distinctions
- Associate Editor. Inaugural Editorial Board of IEEE OJEMB. 2020
- Associate Editor. Scientific Reports. 2019
- Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2019
- Program co-leader for Radiation Oncology and Imaging Program. Duke Cancer Institute. 2019
- Social Impact Abie Award. AnitaB.org . 2019
- Women in Molecular Imaging Network Outstanding Leadership in Molecular Imaging Award. World Molecular Imaging Society. 2019
- CUGH Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation Faculty Award. Consortium of Universities for Global Health. 2018
- Fellow. National Academy of Inventors . 2017
- Fellow. International Society for Optics and Photonics. 2013
- Fellow. American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. 2012
- Fellow. Optical Society of America. 2010
- BME 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies
- BME 290: Intermediate Topics (GE)
- BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
- BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
- BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
- EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
- EHD 395: Bass Connections: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- EHD 396: Bass Connections: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- EHD 795: Bass Connections: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- EHD 796: Bass Connections: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- GLHLTH 230L: Global Women's Health Technologies
- GLHLTH 393: Research Independent Study in Global Health
- GLHLTH 395: Connections in Global Health: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- GLHLTH 396: Connections in Global Health: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- GLHLTH 795: Connections in Global Health: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- GLHLTH 796: Connections in Global Health: Interdisciplinary Team Projects
- PHARM 493: Research Independent Study
- PHARM 494: Research Independent Study
- PHARM 495: Research Independent Study
- SOCIOL 393: Research Independent Study
In the News
- A Breakthrough in Cervical Cancer Treatment Inspires a Ruby Art Exhibit (Feb 27, 2019 | Duke Arts)
- Safe, Convenient, Affordable: How a Pocket Device Is Changing Women's Health (Feb 5, 2019 | Duke Global)
- The Road to Biomedical Engineering Went Through Brahms (Oct 9, 2018 | Duke Arts)
- Three Engineers Named to National Academy of Inventors (Dec 13, 2017)
- New Tech Promises Easier Cervical Cancer Screening (May 31, 2017 | Pratt School of Engineering)
- Duke Team's Portable Screening Device Takes Aim at Preventable Cervical Cancer Deaths (Feb 15, 2017 | Duke Global Health Institute)
- Researchers Aim to Make Cervical Cancer Screening Accessible to All (Dec 19, 2016)
- Showing Congress the Future of Global Womens Health (Nov 29, 2016)
- New Collaborative Seed Grant Program Gives Eight Awards (Mar 16, 2016)
- Ramanujam Awarded Two Grants to Help Screen for Cervical Cancer in Africa (Aug 25, 2015)
- Duke Announces 2015 Distinguished Professors (May 1, 2015)
- DukeEngage Adds California-Based Programs Targeting Homeless and At-Risk Youth (Oct 2, 2014)
- Ramanujam Named Inaugural Recipient of Carr Professorship (Sep 25, 2014)
- Lab of Entrepreneurial Engineers (Sep 19, 2014)
- Global Research, Domestic Benefits (Jan 13, 2014)
- Duke Launches Global Womens Health Technologies Center (Oct 23, 2013)
- Ramanujam Promoted to SPIE Fellow (Jun 7, 2013)
- Asiedu, MN; Simhal, A; Chaudhary, U; Mueller, JL; Lam, CT; Schmitt, JW; Venegas, G; Sapiro, G; Ramanujam, N, Development of Algorithms for Automated Detection of Cervical Pre-Cancers With a Low-Cost, Point-of-Care, Pocket Colposcope., Ieee Trans Biomed Eng, vol 66 no. 8 (2019), pp. 2306-2318 [10.1109/TBME.2018.2887208] [abs].
- Madonna, MC; Fox, DB; Crouch, BT; Lee, J; Zhu, C; Martinez, AF; Alvarez, JV; Ramanujam, N, Optical Imaging of Glucose Uptake and Mitochondrial Membrane Potential to Characterize Her2 Breast Tumor Metabolic Phenotypes., Mol Cancer Res, vol 17 no. 7 (2019), pp. 1545-1555 [10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-18-0618] [abs].
- Zhu, C; Li, M; Vincent, T; Martin, HL; Crouch, BT; Martinez, AF; Madonna, MC; Palmer, GM; Dewhirst, MW; Ramanujam, N, Simultaneous in vivo optical quantification of key metabolic and vascular endpoints reveals tumor metabolic diversity in murine breast tumor models., J Biophotonics, vol 12 no. 4 (2019) [10.1002/jbio.201800372] [abs].
- Crouch, BT; Gallagher, J; Wang, R; Duer, J; Hall, A; Soo, MS; Hughes, P; Haystead, T; Ramanujam, N, Exploiting heat shock protein expression to develop a non-invasive diagnostic tool for breast cancer., Scientific Reports, vol 9 no. 1 (2019) [10.1038/s41598-019-40252-y] [abs].
- Mueller, JL; Lam, CT; Dahl, D; Asiedu, MN; Krieger, MS; Bellido-Fuentes, Y; Kellish, M; Peters, J; Erkanli, A; Ortiz, EJ; Muasher, LC; Taylor, PT; Schmitt, JW; Venegas, G; Ramanujam, N, Portable Pocket colposcopy performs comparably to standard-of-care clinical colposcopy using acetic acid and Lugol's iodine as contrast mediators: an investigational study in Peru., Bjog, vol 125 no. 10 (2018), pp. 1321-1329 [10.1111/1471-0528.15326] [abs].