Five years ago, Anurag Purwar, a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stony Brook University, received a request to fashion a medical device to help the mobility of a friend and retired physician suffering from the debilitating effects of post-polio syndrome. The physician had a walker, but unless another person was around to help, he couldn't raise himself out of a chair to use it.
After conducting some preliminary research, Professor Purwar was surprised to learn that there were no devices on the market that fit those with this particular need. "Today, in the United States, there are more than two million people over the age of 64 who find it difficult to rise from a chair without assistance," says Professor Purwar. "Biomechanically, sitting and standing involve complex movements that require muscle strength greater than other activities of daily life."
Utilizing his machine design background, Professor Purwar came up with a solution with the help of his student Thomas Galeotafiore and others — a portable, compact, multifunctional mobility assist device that helps a person with standing, sitting, and walking independently with support only from the device. The device, resembling a walker but with support bars, a pelvic harness, and novel linkage controlled by the user with a remote, is designed to mimic the natural standing motion of a human body. "The most obvious advantage of the device is that it gives the opportunity for more independence," Purwar says. "It can also help protect patients and caregivers from accidental falls and back injuries."
The SUNY Research Foundation has funded the next stage of development with a $50,000 Technology Accelerator Fund award, one of only six awarded for 2012. The Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence program at Stony Brook University and the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University have also pledged additional support.
"We are pleased to help facilitate this collaboration and provide additional support that will help bring this device to market," says Diane Fabel, Director of Operations at the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook. "It is a win-win situation for everyone involved but especially for patients and the local economy."
Professor Purwar plans to continue testing it in real-life settings with the elderly, disabled veterans, and caregivers and hopes a final prototype will be commercialized within the next two years. He is working with Biodex Medical Systems in Shirley, N.Y., as a potential commercialization partner.