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#TechThursdays - BETIC at IIT Bombay is helping young innovators develop high quality assistive tech at low cost

May 9, 2019

His own struggles coping with disability led young Aneesh Karma to look into finding ways to help others who have difficulty in walking.

"I am from Bulandshaher in Uttar Pradesh and I could not study beyond Class 12 as I had problems in walking, says Aneesh. "My wife is disabled too and faces the same issue.

This led Aneesh too look at a low cost and better alternative to the drop lock calipers that are widely used in India. While they are affordable, they cause an unnatural gait. "Because they lock the knee while a person is walking, the gait is abnormal and also causes severe problems, says Aneesh. "So, a lot of people stop using it. There are better solutions are available but are expensive.

Aneesh has developed KAFO, a affordable and comfortable alternative that works on stance-controlled actuation, leading to a more natural gait. His idea found support at the Biomedical Engineering & Technology (incubation) Centre (BETiC), located inside the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay.

"BETIC supported us in covering prototyping costs and assembling a team of qualified engineers and also provided mentoring in terms of technical support, business incubation guidance and of filing for government grants, adds Aneesh.

KAFO is made up of high-density polymer (HDP), stainless steel, velcro, paddings and force-transmitting wires. In less than eight months, Anees plans to bring the product to the market.

Like Aneesh, BETiC is supporting hundreds of innovators in developing technologies in affordable healthcare.

BETiC owes its origins to a study conducted in 2009 by the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, which recommended setting up a biomedical engineering and technology centre in the state. At the behest of Maharashtra government, IIT Bombay agreed to incubate the centre over a five year period (2014-2019). Subsequently, 8 other BETiC cells came up in engineering and medical colleges across the state. - Professor B Ravi, Founder, Biomedical Engineering & Technology (incubation) Centre (BETiC)

The gaps when it comes to assistive technologies in particular are huge. Much of what is available is imported and available at costs that unaffordable to most Indians, a challenge that BETiC is looking at closely as well.

"Indian vendors are finding it difficult to match the quality of prostheses imported from the West as well as those provided by government organizations, adds Dr Ravi. "It was a good challenge to achieve both - high quality with low cost."

Keeping this goal in mind, engineers at BETiC collaborated with NGOs providing assistive devices. This led to two projects. One is a above-knee prosthetic leg for amputees, and the other, a knee ankle foot orthosis for those affected by polio. Both devices are in advanced stages of development, and have been tested by volunteers with "satisfying results.

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