NIMMI RAMANUJAM, Ph.D.
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 University 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 (AnitaB.org), the Biophotonics Technology Innovator Award (SPIE), the Women in Molecular Imaging Leadership Award (WMIC), and a Fulbright Global Scholar Award. Dr. Ramanujam 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. She has presented the global impact of her work through presentations at the United Nations and TEDx events.
MARLEE KRIEGER, M.S.
Marlee holds a B.S in Biology and M.S in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Massachusetts. There she developed fluorescence reporter systems to monitor DNA damage in Escherichia coli. She is currently the Executive Director at the Center for Global Women's Health Technologies within the Biomedical Engineering Department at Duke. She is also a member of the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies where her research focuses on the development of the Pocket Colposcope for cervical cancer screening in resource poor settings. She also directs DukeEngage Orange County, an immersion program that aims to empower young girls by giving them tools to help navigate social, economic and gender barriers. In 2016, she became a team leader for Bass Connections Peru. In this project, a diverse team of faculty, staff and student map the various stakeholders involved with the implementation of the Pocket Colposcope in Peru.
Marlee began her appointment as the Executive Director of the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies in October, 2018. Since being named Executive Director, Marlee has built and leads a diverse set of multidisciplinary educational programs, spearheads the Center’s international collaborations which focus on the clinical implementation of technologies developed at Duke, and has become widely successful in securing financial support for Center related research and education. Her research efforts focus on generating a deeper understanding of the scaling and adoption of novel healthcare innovations as well as the potential barriers to ultimate market acceptance.
Marlee directs the Calla Fellows Program, a 12-month rigorous internship for exceptional post-baccalaureates interested in women’s health and transformative technologies. 2019 marks the fourth year of this highly successful and competitive program. She also directs DukeEngage Orange County, an learning-based immersion program that aims to empower young girls by giving them tools to help navigate social, economic and gender barriers. In 2016, she began a Bass Connections program in Lima, Peru. In this project, a diverse team of faculty, staff and student map the various stakeholders involved with the implementation of the Pocket Colposcope in Lima. Marlee also serves as the Director of DukeEngage Orange County, which reflects the partnership with two non-profit organizations, Girls Inc. and Global Girls Glow. Each year, Marlee leads a team of eight Duke students to southern California to work with these community partners on empowering middle- and high-school aged girls through STEM education and artistic expression. Additionally, for the last four years, she has directed a Bass Connections program called, “Analysis of Bringing Elements of Referral Services to Community Care.” The goal of the program is to work with a team of healthcare providers, policy makers, lawyers and most importantly, students, to demonstrate that novel technologies developed at Duke using a process called human centered design can be economically viable in the community health setting. Like her involvement with DukeEngage and Bass Connections, many of the Center’s clinical, educational, and community outreach initiatives can be directly attributed to the leadership and organization that she has brought to the center.
Marlee is a founding member of the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies, where she has served since 2007. She works closely with all members of the GWHT lab, including administrators, post-doctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and post-baccalaureate fellows to foster their professional development in conjunction with the continued growth of the Center. Additionally, she works with many members of the Pratt community as well as faculty, staff and students in numerous other departments across campus including, DGHI, Surgery, Ob/Gyn, Pathology and FUQUA and the Margolis Center for Health Policy. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Massachusetts, where she also received a M.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Brian Crouch, Ph.D.
Assistant Director of Research
Dr. Crouch received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University in 2018 under the mentorship of Dr. Ramanujam, and currently serves as the Assistant Director of Research within the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies. Dr. Crouch’s research interests intersect oncology, translational research, and global health, with a particular focus on diagnostics and therapeutics in low-resource settings. He is an expert in translating diagnostic technologies from the bench to bedside using in vitro cell culture and cell-based assays, small animal models, fluorescence microscopy, image processing, machine learning, and clinical trial design.
Dr. Crouch began his appointment as the Center’s Assistant Director of Research in March 2020. He was a graduate student previously at the Center from 2013-2018. He is responsible for directing the Center’s research initiatives through strategic planning, funding opportunity identification, and graduate student mentoring. Dr. Crouch oversees the three main research initiatives within the Center: 1) cervical pre-cancer imaging, 2) breast cancer imaging, and 3) cancer ablation.
As part of the cervical pre-cancer imaging project, Dr. Crouch oversees the development of an artificial intelligence algorithm for automated diagnosis of screening in low-resource settings, as well as the next generation development of the Callascope, a technology designed to bring cervical cancer screening into the hands of women globally.
Brian is also mentoring graduate students working on metabolic imaging of dormant and recurrent breast tumors, as well as diagnostic imaging as part of the breast imaging project. Finally, Dr. Crouch is leading initiatives to develop a therapeutic strategy based on percutaneous ethanol ablation for treatment of a variety of cancers and pre-cancers. As part of these research directives, he has assisted in NIH and foundation grant applications, in some instances serving as the contact PI for the Center.
During his Ph.D. thesis work, Dr. Crouch developed a see-and-treat paradigm in breast cancer preclinical models and validated his approach in clinical samples using a common signaling node as both a diagnostic and therapeutic target. Brian paved a new direction for the lab, developing a fruitful collaboration with Dr. Timothy Haystead in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. Dr. Crouch’s work resulted in a successful NIH R21 grant application within the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, as well as multiple fellowships, awards, conference proceedings, and journal articles. Ultimately, his Ph.D. work has applications in both high-income countries, as a rapid screening test in breast radiology or margin assessment, and low-and-middle income countries (LMICs), as a low-cost alternative to histopathology. Dr. Crouch collaborated on several different projects during graduate school, earning co-authorship on five journal publications and two conference proceedings.
After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Crouch became the Research Program Leader for The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke in March 2019. As the Research Program Leader, he was responsible for the development and implementation of both early and late phase clinical trials for patients with brain tumors. He also learned the complexities of the regulatory pathway for first-in-human therapy trials and built relationships with Duke’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and Quality. Dr. Crouch played an integral role is shaping the overall research directions for the brain tumor center and securing funding for vital projects.