Nimmi Ramanujam
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 a wide reaching impact on 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. 

Dr. 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

Dr. Ramanujam has received institutional awards for her work including the Global Indus Technovator and TR100 Young Innovator awards (MIT) and the Stansell Family award (Pratt School of Engineering, Duke). Additionally, she has been recognized by both private and government organizations including multiple Era of Hope Scholar awards (DoD), the Emerging Leader in Global Health Award (CUGH), the Social Impact Abie Award (, the Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award (SPIE), the Women in Molecular Imaging Leadership Award (WMIC), a Fulbright Global Scholar Award and the The WomC Global Impact Award from Duke University Women’s Center. She is a fellow of several optical and biomedical engineering societies including OSA, SPIE, and AIMBE. Most recently, she was awarded the Michael S. Feld Biophotonics Award and was appointed as the IEEE Distinguished Lecturer and her MacArthur Foundation 100&Change proposal, Women-Inspired Strategies for Health (WISH): A Revolution against Cervical Cancer, has been named to the Top 100 of the 755 proposals submitted to this $100M grant competition. She has demonstrated the global impact of her work through presentations at the United Nations and TEDx events.

Current Research Interests

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.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

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