2008 Franklin medal and prize

Professor David Delpy

University College London

For his pioneering development of a range of novel techniques and instruments to monitor the health of patients in intensive-care units and to image tissue physiology and metabolism.

The Franklin medal and prize for distinguished research in physics applied to the life sciences has been awarded to Professor David Thomas Delpy, Vice Provost for Research and Professor of Medical Photonics at University College London,for his pioneering development of a range of novel techniques and instruments to monitor the health of patients in intensive-care units and to image tissue physiology and metabolism.

Professor Delpy’s work has made significant impact on clinical diagnosis and intervention across the world. A major part of his research has been directed at investigating oxygen supply and metabolism in tissues, particularly the brains of premature and ill newborn infants, and determining how brain damage is caused and how to prevent it.

With a first degree in applied physics, and research in electronics and electronics engineering, Delpy first worked on sensors, developing miniature devices that monitor blood pressure and subsequently for measuring gas concentration in the blood via transducers on the skin. This led him to develop an interest in monitoring the supply and use of oxygen in tissues, particularly the brain.

Delpy also established a very early NMR spectroscopy system to follow activity in muscle, tumours and neonatal brains. He went on to develop the technique of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) for monitoring of brain oxygenation and blood flow non-invasively. NIRS is now used worldwide in basic research, in neonatal and adult intensive care, and to examine brain activation. More recently, he has been developing tomographic methods for optically imaging the brain and breast, and the novel technique of photo-acoustic imaging.

Delpy has been very successful in commercialising his work, which has involved many industrial collaborations over the years. The NIRS instrumentation is now manufactured by Hamamatsu Photonics KK.