Rebecca Richards-Kortum's research focuses on developing optical technologies for detecting cervical precancer in vivo. Her HHMI project involves expanding an internship program that immerses bioengineering majors in all aspects of biomedical research; broadly disseminating the curriculum of Bioengineering and World Health, a course for nonscience majors; and modifying this curriculum for use in high schools and middle schools.
Low-Cost, High-Performance Global Health Technologies
Guided by the belief that all of the world’s people deserve access to health innovation, Rebecca Richards-Kortum’s research and teaching focus on developing and disseminating low-cost, high-performance global health technologies. Specifically, we are working to develop cost-effective optical imaging and spectroscopy tools to reduce the incidence and mortality of cancer and infectious disease through early detection at the point of care.
In collaboration with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, we have developed novel cellular and molecular imaging technologies to recognize signatures of early neoplastic disease. At the same time, we have developed optically active, targeted nanoparticles and fluorescent dyes to directly image the molecular hallmarks of cancer. Through clinical trials at MD Anderson, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India, we have optimized these agents and imaging systems, demonstrating that they can detect precancerous lesions and early cancers in the oral cavity and the esophagus with high sensitivity and specificity.
More recently, we have initiated a multidisciplinary effort to develop molecular-specific contrast agents and optical microfluidic chips for point-of-care detection of infectious disease through collaborations at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.