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Charity partnership commits over £1million to research into spinal cord injury rehabilitation

16 August 2013

UCL has appointed to the academic staff three new researchers in disability science and rehabilitation engineering, in partnership with Aspire, a national charity supporting people with spinal cord injuries, and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.

The posts are funded by a grant of over £1million from Aspire and matched by UCL Engineering. Officially known as Aspire Lecturers and Senior Lecturers, they will produce a new generation of cost-effective technologies for people paralysed by spinal cord injuries, supporting rehabilitation and well-being.

Rob Hurd, Chief Executive of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Professor David Lomas, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences, Brian Carlin, Chief Executive of Aspire, Professor Anthony Finkelstein, Dean of UCL Engineering, and Professor Mark Emberton, Director of the UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science (L-R) sign an agreement creating the Aspire Lectureships

Rob Hurd, Chief Executive of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Professor David Lomas, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences, Brian Carlin, Chief Executive of Aspire, Professor Anthony Finkelstein, Dean of UCL Engineering, and Professor Mark Emberton, Director of the UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science (L-R) sign an agreement creating the Aspire Lectureships

The agreement brings together the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science (part of UCL Medical Sciences) who have a longstanding partnership with Aspire, and the UCL Institute for Biomedical Engineering, a collaboration based within UCL Engineering that brings together activity in this area. The significant strengths and large research portfolio existing at UCL, combined with experience and insight from Aspire, provide the raw materials to translate research into quality of life.

The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, home to the Aspire Centre for Disability Science since 2005, is also a significant partner in the project, providing facilities with an estimated value of over £1million over three years. As a base for the new staff, it will give them excellent access to patients and resources. and the researchers will also have the opportunity to contribute to the redevelopment of the hospital and spinal injury facilities.

Brian Carlin, Chief Executive of Aspire, said.

“Every eight hours someone sustains a spinal cord injury in the UK and Aspire exists because there currently no cure. This partnership is highly valuable to our work in offering practical support to people paralysed by spinal cord injuries. We look forward immensely to working with the appointed Lecturers in the development of translational research that aims to give disabled people greater independence and more fulfilled lives.”

Professor Anthony Finkelstein, Dean of UCL Engineering, said:

“By funding a group of early-career researchers, UCL hopes to encourage and develop work in this crucial area, where we believe we can make a real difference. This charity partnership will help us create assistive technology that is innovative and directly addresses the needs of disabled people.”

Dr Anne Vanhoestenberghe has been working in Implanted Devices at UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering for 10 years, and will be taking up an Aspire Lectureship. She said:

“Research in rehabilitation and assistive technology needs to be truly multi-disciplinary to deliver patient benefits, so it’s great to be part of a new team that will combine our strengths and insights. This new role will allow me to develop clinical applications for my work through new collaborations with the medical specialists at the RNOH.”

Professor Gordon Blunn, deputy director of the UCL Institute for Biomedical Engineering and director of the UCL Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science said:

“I’m delighted to see UCL’s excellent reputation in research for the biomedical sector being extended in this area. Given our expertise in accessibility and healthy ageing, and the UCL Grand Challenge of Human Well-being, technologies for wheelchair users and those with spinal injuries are a natural fit.”

The new postholders take up their roles in Autumn this year.

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