Welcome to the Vincent Laboratory

A Social Dimension in the Control of Disease 

Limiting airborne disease transmission among impoverished persons through advances in germicidal ultraviolet (GUV) air cleansing technology.


Richard L. Vincent, MSc, BSArch, FIES, LEED® AP Our Purpose: Reduce airborne disease transmission in underserved and impoverished populations. Globally, about two million people die every year from tuberculosis (TB). Many of these cases are accelerated by co-infection with HIV. TB, as well as influenza and measles, is a naturally-occurring disease transmitted through the air, often by unsuspecting persons, and frequently in impoverished settings. Aerosol transmission of disease-causing organisms results from inhalation of 2-5 micron-sized floating pathogens, as opposed to infection through direct touch or by breathing in larger, moist particles. These diseases, particularly TB, disproportionately affect the poor because of unhealthy and unclean environments, where crowding, pollution, and bad air circulation increase the potential for the person-to-person spread of organisms through the air. This is especially a concern in homeless shelters, prisons, institutions for elderly living, and refugee camps worldwide. Many airborne infectious diseases also mutate, and thus can become resistant to antibiotics.

Fortunately, germicidal UV (GUV) works to destroy microorganism DNA regardless of whatever strain it might be. By flooding an area with high-energy, short-wavelength ultraviolet light (UVC) for a sufficient amount of time (usually no more than a few minutes), large enough amounts of energy are transferred into the microorganisms that it shines on–whether they are on a surface or in the air–to disrupt their DNA and inactivate their essential cellular functions, thus rendering them harmless. In order to interrupt the transmission of airborne disease we have worked–and are continuing to work–to safely
and effectively deploy ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) systems to cleanse large volumes of shared air. GUV is an TUSS photoevidenced-based technology shown to be effective in reducing TB transmission by 80% in high-risk settings, and we are working to help upgrade its quality, output, and adjustability. In collaboration with our partners at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University, we are seeking to help guide the sustainable implementation of this airborne infection control on a global level.

Provide a safe healthcare environment for healthcare workers, patients, and family members. Fomites (high-touch surfaces) are everywhere in hospitals, and contribute to the transmission of pathogens such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff.), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), which can be life-threatening and even fatal. These hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) negatively impact the safety of both patients and staff, as well as increase the total cost of care. We aim to establish an efficacy benchmark of traditional ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), as well as to explore emerging ultraviolet-LED technology to further reduce nosocomial infections originating in patient rooms and special procedure areas of the hospital.

Harness lighting technology into intelligent systems which serve to disinfect patient and staff areas, enhance the visual performance environment for clinicians, and therapeutically help patients with recovery. With the right input and sensory technology, specialized lighting systems evaluated and pilot tested for surface disinfection can be programmed to initiate operation upon the vacating of a room by a patient or staff, helping to disinfect and sanitize the fomites of the room more often than could ever be possible via traditional methods. Additionally, built-in upper-room UV disinfection of the air itself can be accomplished while the room is occupied, which allows disinfection to take place continuously and safely. We hope to demonstrate the suitability of this technology for not only the developed world, but also for the developing world.

Beyond disinfection technologies, new solid-state lighting (SSL) and Light Emitting Diodes (LED) allow for the investigation of adaptive lighting strategies to enhance the visual environment for clinicians performing critical tasks, as well as of the biological implications of light itself. As opposed to UVGI, which functions in the non-visible range, there are potential benefits of visible light on human performance, alertness, and patient recovery which may have an important impact in the design of the healthcare setting.

Our Founding: The Brickner Research Unit, begun by the late Healthcare for the Homeless Pioneer, Professor Philip W. Brickner, MD, had its start in 1991 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Department of Community Medicine. Among the research projects completed to date is the Tuberculosis Ultraviolet Shelter Study (TUSS) (1997-2004), a multi-center, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, epidemiological field trial of upper-room UV air application at 14 homeless shelters in six U.S. cities. 1200 germicidal UV (GUV) fixtures were placed and monitored over seven years for safety and efficacy. A series of new studies and educational materials are being developed from TUSS with long-time collaborators at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Partners in Health. In 2010, the former St. Vincent’s Department of Community Medicine was brought within the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Division of General Internal Medicine. The Vincent Research Laboratory seeks to honor the memory of Dr. Brickner by continuing the mission to help the sick poor through innovative research, application, and education.