IIT Gandhinagar Faculty wins Tata Innovation Fellowship 2020-21 – To receive the award from Dr Harsha Vardhan tomorrow

Gandhinagar: Prof Uttama Lahiri, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) has been selected for the TATA Innovation Fellowship for 2020-21. She will receive the award from Dr Harsha Vardhan, Union Minister of Science and Technology, Government of India, in a virtual function tomorrow. The award includes a monthly fellowship amount and a contingency grant for three years, with a possible extension of another two years.

Tata Innovation Fellowship is awarded by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, to the selected five scientists of the country as a recognition and reward to their outstanding work in the field of biological sciences/biotechnology and commitment to find innovative solutions in healthcare, agriculture, environment, conservation of natural resources, livestock production manufacturing process, and so on.

 

Prof Uttama Lahiri has been selected for this fellowship for her proposed work that focuses on finding technology-based solution for rehabilitation of gait and mobility in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients. Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been reported to affect approximately 1% of individuals older than 60 years globally and causing progressive disability. Often PD is accompanied with major motor disturbances leading to gait impairments, falls, mobility loss, and reduced independence. One of the most disturbing gait disruption is related with Freezing of Gait (FOG) episodes in which one’s foot seems stuck to the ground (experienced in advanced PD stage) leading to falls. The existing best practices mostly rely on the use of pharmacological approach; but studies have shown that with progress in the disease, patients can become unresponsive to the medication beyond a certain stage. Thus, therapeutic alternatives to pharmacotherapy are in great need for individuals with PD. External cueing, e.g., visual, auditory and tactile inputs during walking can help the patients experiencing gait impairments.

 

Prof Uttama has conceptualised a novel wireless wearable ‘SmartWear’ which can pick up one’s walking pattern that will offer the Parkinson Disease (PD) patients a technology-assisted mechanism empowered to quantify one’s possibility of Freezing of Gait (FOG) even before it actually happens, and address this gait disruption in an individualised ‘Assist-as-Needed’ mode. Unlike the currently available technology-assisted solutions, which are expensive, heavy, noisy, and non-personalised for the PD patients, the proposed SmartWear by Prof Uttama will be capable of (i) real-time monitoring and quantification of patient’s gait to (ii) intelligently predict one’s possibility of Freezing of Gait (FOG), and in turn (iii) offer external cues e.g., visual, auditory and tactile inputs in an ‘Assist-as-Needed’ mode to prevent FOG in an individualised manner, adapting to the patient’s normal walking speed.

 

Expressing her thoughts on this achievement, Prof Uttama Lahiri said, “I feel extremely grateful for this recognition and support to our work. It will help us take it forward with further research. With SmartWear, we aim to introduce affordable and easy home-based therapy that can significantly contribute to the PD patient’s gait rehabilitation, confidence, and quality of life.”

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