Affordable prostheses bring employment hope to Indian amputees

Date Published: 11.11.2014

Researchers from the Department of Engineering Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), in partnership with The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc), have been awarded a four year project (totalling approximately £1million) from the Wellcome Trust to develop affordable prostheses for the Indian population. Wadham Fellow, Professor Mark Thompson, who leads this IBME project, believes that this partnership will have a major impact on affordable healthcare in India.

The loss of an arm and hand through amputation following an accident has a drastic effect on the victim. If the victim is also the main wage earner in a family, as is frequent in India, the impact on dependents can be even greater.

Providing the victim with a prosthetic hand and rehabilitation at an early stage can boost their chances of regaining ability with their arm and returning to productive work. However, prostheses are either not affordable for the large majority of the Indian population or are unsuitable for sustainable use and maintenance.

This new international collaboration aims to take novel prosthetic design prototypes developed at the Indian Institute of Science and ready them for commercial manufacture. The IISc, with its expertise in affordable and appropriate design, will work together with biomechanics and clinical trials experts at Oxford and with experts in commercialisation at both centres. This international partnership will ensure that the new design ideas from IISc have a major impact on affordable healthcare in India.

Professor Mark Thompson, the Oxford Principal Investigator of the project, comments: “This Wellcome Trust grant provides an exciting opportunity for translational biomechanics research to have a major impact on affordable healthcare in India. Together with the IISc, originators of the design, we have brought together a fantastic team of engineers, clinicians, NGOs and manufacturers to take their PURAK prosthesis forward to commercial reality.”

Professor Alison Noble, Director of the IBME and Co-investigator, comments: “We are delighted to be awarded this grant from the Wellcome Trust. Our Institute has a strong tradition in clinical translation of solutions into the NHS and commercialisation of healthcare technologies. We are looking forward to working with our colleagues at the IISc and their partners in India to develop the best strategies for translation and adoption of the PURAK affordable prostheses."

(PURAK is a Sanskrit word meaning “one who completes or augments").

Mark Thompson

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