Biophotonics research


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The Biophotonics Research Unit's goals are to pioneer the field of novel optical diagnostics within the clinical environment.

The Biophotonics Research Unit

We lead research into vibrational spectroscopy (Raman and FT-IR), diagnostics for in vivo and in vitro discrimination of early cancers, degenerative diseases and local and systemic disease studies in body fluids.

We also work in the following areas:

  • mid-IR hyperspectral imaging of tissues for pathological diagnostics and biochemical analysis
  • optical coherence tomography for real-time surgical targeting of disease and biopsy selection
  • photodynamic therapy for early cancers and dysplasia
  • volatile analysis techniques for detection of infections.

Professor Hugh Barr and his team were shortlisted for again for the BMJ Awards Cancer Care Team category 2017.

Current projects

DOLPHIN-VIVO (Diagnosis of LymPHoma IN VIVO)

The project is developing the use of a smart Raman needle probe to detect and diagnose primary and secondary cancers in lymph nodes.

The DOLPHIN-VIVO project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (Invention for Innovation) II-LB-1117-20002.

DOLPHIN-VIVO is a collaboration between The Biomedical Spectroscopy Group at The University of Exeter, and Interface Analysis Centre at The University of Bristol and the Biophotonics Research Unit, GHNHSFT.

Read our press release about the DOLPHIN-VIVO project.

RAFTER (RAman For Thyroid cancER)

RAFTER is a project funded by Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity through FOCUS with generous donations from Gloucestershire Cricket and crowd funding. Its aims to develop a rapid, minimally invasive diagnosis technique for swollen thyroid glands, to improve the screening process by avoiding the need for an invasive surgical biopsy. Many patients experience weakness of their vocal cords following surgery, but this less invasive approach to diagnosis will have little if any side effects. Using specially developed fibre-optic probes which can target tissue below the skin, we can tell the difference between healthy and cancerous tissue by measuring light from tissue when illuminated by a low-power laser; a technique called Raman spectroscopy.

Cancer Research

A pioneering new study is underway at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital which could help diagnose cancer faster and it was made possible by two fantastic donations from Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and Growers United FC - thank you, your support is making a real difference to people's lives.

Posted by Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity on Wednesday, 6 February 2019

RaPIDE (RAman Probe for In vivo Diagnostics (during oesophageal) Endoscopy)

RaPIDE seeks to develop a miniaturised probe that slides down the working channel of an endoscope, to diagnose oesophageal cancer using Raman spectroscopy without the need for an invasive, expensive and distressing biopsy.

The project is a collaboration between The Biophotonics Research Unit and Biomedical Spectroscopy Group at The University of Exeter, and Interface Analysis Centre at The University of Bristol.


The Raman4Clinics project pools European expertise to step forward the field of novel, label-free and rapid technologies, based on a wide variety of Raman spectroscopies for the clinical diagnostics of body fluids, bacteria, cells and tissues. The goal is to give a major impetus in this vibrant field of research by aligning our techniques to clinical requirements and application aspects (the unmet medical need)


Professor Barr and the Hospital Charity Fundraising team, have been working with a person who is kindly donating to our Surgical Laser Trust Fund. Watch the together again documentary here.

Laser and Intense Light Sources Safety Course

The unit runs a BMLA-approved course twice a year, around May and November. This course covers the recommended syllabus in “Guidance on the safe user of lasers, intense light source systems and LEDs in medical, surgical, dental and aesthetic practices” – DB2008(03), April 2008 (Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency – ‘Core of Knowledge’)

For further information, or to book onto one of our courses, please contact Allison


We were shortlisted as finalists in The BMJ Awards in 2014, 2016, and 2017 in the Cancer Care Team category.

Contact us

To contact the team, email:

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