A brief overview of the experience of Dr. Saeed Behzadipour (First Part)

October 26, 2021

In the name of God

The winner in the field of health in the first round of the KANS scientific competition

 

Dr. Saeed Behzadipour is a PhD graduate of the University of Waterloo, Canada and a member of the faculty of the Mechanical Engineers at Sharif University of Technology. The Secretariat of the Second KANS Scientific Competition has conducted a brief overview of their scientific and educational experiences in friendly and informal interviews, and has specifically asked questions about the product presented at the first KANS Scientific Competition. The following is the text of the first part of this interview.

Studying in Canada and returning to Iran

I did my PhD in robotics and industrial applications at the University of Waterloo, Canada. After that, I went to the University of Alberta in Edmonton as a faculty member. I was in this university for almost 5 years and promoted to the rank of associate professor.

During this time, I gradually became acquainted with medical robotics and was drawn to it. I started studying in the field of rehabilitation and did activities in the field of technology development to help people with disabilities.

In Canada, I had a good academic position as well as good living conditions, but from the beginning of my education in Canada, my goal was to return back to Iran. Working for my people gives a deeper meaning to my life. I also wanted to be with my family and raise my children in Iran. These two motivations led me to return to Iran in 1990 and continue my medical robotics research line at Sharif University of Technology.

External skeleton robot project for the lower limbs

Sometime after my return to Iran and my activity in the field of medical robotics, two of my high school friends, Mr. Naghipour and Mr. Havaeji, came to me with an offer. They had been involved in commercial and industrial activities for some time and came up with the idea of a lower limb robotic skeleton for people with spinal cord injury. The robot helps a person with spinal cord injury to get up from the wheelchair and walk. In other words, this technology is the future of the wheelchair, and since the person with spinal cord injury is partially restored to normal life, it has been considered and invested in several countries.

Due to my scientific background in rehabilitating the disabled and medical robotics, I welcomed their design and we entered into a team collaboration. To complete the team in the field of control engineer, Dr. Azgoli, another high school friend who had a university background, has joined us and the project of developing exoskeleton technology began.

The team was complete in terms of industrial knowledge and experience, but had a major shortcoming in order to survive, and that was the lack of fund for research and development. Businesses at the edge of technology are hardly considered by investors because of their high risk. Fortunately, our project attracted the attention of a private investor and the initial fund for research and development were raised soon. This cooperation led to the formation of the “Pedasys” a Knowledge-Based Company, consisting of 4 of us and, of course, a number of elite students from “Tarbiat Modares University” and “Sharif University of Technology”.

Product evolution

After the formation of the company, working on the exoskeleton robot began and after a year of effort and activity, a prototype of the robot was produced which we named it “Exoped”. Exoped is worn like a garment and attaches to the thighs, legs and around the pelvis. These garment can be controlled by the operators provided to the disabled person. With the help of this robot, a person with a spinal cord injury can get up from the wheelchair and walk.

After making the prototype, the work continued and after a few months, a second version that could be tested on the patients was made and the experiments began under the supervision of therapists.

By successfully passing the initial tests, clinical trials of the device were started, during which the safety and effectiveness of the robot had to be confirmed. Clinical studies have posed many challenges and unforeseen issues. For example, patients should be satisfied with the use of the device; Various permits had to be obtained, such as the ethics committee, Doctors and therapists had to understand the robot and be willing to cooperate and use it. All of this made clinical studies have high logistical complexities, which greatly increased the cost and development time .

For example, the General Directorate of Medical Equipment, which had to issue a standard for this product, had difficulty in determining evaluation indicators due to lack of previous experience in similar products. After many delays, we were asked to test the robot on 100 patients to determine the usefulness of the device. It is easy to say 100 patients, but in addition to the cost, it required a lot of patience and perseverance; Because using this device, like a vehicle, required a lot of training and exercises and each patient needed at least 10 sessions of intensive training.

One of the experiences we gained in clinical studies was that technologists who want to enter the field of health and have a different background in clinical studies must have people specializing in clinical studies with them. Otherwise, the long path of clinical studies will be much longer. My other experience was how to convince patients. Basically, testing any new product, especially in the field of health, has concerns and patients should be properly justified. To justify patients and reduce their fears, we made videos of the device’s performance and showed them that it helped advancing our clinical work

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