Defitech Foundation supports new EPFL Chair
The Defitech Foundation has made a commitment that will enable the creation of a new laboratory. The “Research Chair in Clinical Neuroengineering and Human-Machine Interactions” will be established in Sion, as part of EPFL Valais Wallis and the Campus Energypolis, within the auspices of the Clinique Romande de réadaptation (rehabilitation) (SuvaCare). This Chair, like the first Defitech Chair established in 2008, will be affiliated with EPFL’s Center for Neuroprosthetics.
For disabled patients, increasing mobility or improving the ability to interact with the outside world is of ultimate importance. Research done in EPFL’s Center for Neuroprosthetics is exploring several avenues, such as developing “smart” prostheses that have sensory or cognitive abilities, reconstructing spinal cord nerve fibers, and developing flexible implants.
The Defitech Foundation, created in 2001 by Sylviane and Daniel Borel, has been supporting an EPFL Chair since 2008 that is dedicated to research in non-invasive devices designed for human-machine interactions. Professor José del R. Millán, holder of the Chair, has presented a prototype of a wheelchair that can be controlled by its user’s thoughts.
Today the Foundation is announcing a new “Research Chair in Clinical Neuroengineering and Human-Machine Interactions”. Recruitment for the Chair holder has already begun, with a hire expected in 2015. The holder of the Chair will enter a brand new laboratory of more than 300 m2, located in the extension – still under construction – of the Clinique Romande de Réadaptation SuvaCare (CRR), in proximity to and in collaboration with the Hospital of the Valais.
This new Chair will complement and strengthen EPFL’s Center for Neuroprosthetics (CNP). Some CNP research groups are already stationed at the CRR, while others are settling in Geneva, in the Campus Biotech. “The new Defitech Chair will focus on the translational scope of its activities,” explains CNP Director Olaf Blanke. “Its installation in Sion, in a place where patients can benefit from advances developed in the laboratory, is thus particularly judicious.”
For Sylviane Borel, President of the Defitech Foundation, “The research area of this Chair is completely aligned with Defitech’s goals. Supporting a multidisciplinary research project that combines robotics and information technologies, and that will ultimately lead to practical applications to improve the quality of life for disabled individuals, is extremely gratifying. We are very pleased with this new collaboration with EPFL and its partners.”
Over the longer term, CNP researchers hope to introduce new technologies into training programs for nurses and physical therapists, and to generate companies that will manufacture innovative devices for patient wellbeing.
Within the next year, twenty EPFL scientists will be working with the CRR. They will be the nucleus of the “Health Pole” of the EPFL Valais Wallis and Campus Energypolis, currently being established in a partnership with the Valais state government, the HES-SO Valais-Wallis and the Ark Foundation.