David Guiraud, 2010 EADS prize: How to restore movement artificially
This summer, David Guiraud, the DEMAR project-team leader, received the 2010 grand prize of the EADS Enterprise Foundation for all of his work: a major contribution for computer science serving the biomedical field and a remarkable cooperation with industry. We take a look back at his well-deserved achievements.
Originally from the Cévennes, a music and painting enthusiast with eclectic tastes, David Guiraud has never followed the beaten path. "In 1990, upon graduating from the Ecole Centrale de Paris, I wanted to dive straight into research ". A rather unusual decision for an apprentice entrepreneur. "I wanted to undertake a thesis in connection with my initial training and with health. The biomedical orientation of my research is therefore a choice that I made from the start ". His career choices then became a little more complicated: "the proposed thesis topics were either very bio or very techno-centred ".
He ultimately found his place within a team of physicians in Montpellier, working under Prof. Rabischong on a completely new subject in France in the 1990s: neuroprostheses. The medical challenge? Restoring the ability to walk in paraplegic patients. A somewhat crazy idea that does not have unanimous support… but which David Guiraud has been drawn to. He started from a blank page, as nobody had ever written complete relevant models of the human biomechanical system. And he contributed solutions based on artificial neural networks. "Approaches that would be considered simplistic today. But we had no choice! ".
Researching for fun
With his thesis in the bag, David Guiraud then started teaching as a university professor in applied physics and continued his research "for fun", still with Prof. Rabischong. Name of the European project: Stand Up And Walk. In 2000, the work resulted in the first human implantation of a system to restore movement to the lower limb. "It had thus been shown to the various sceptical research organisations that neuroprostheses could actually restore movement ". But the devices still needed work.
"With the support of Inria, and hosting from LIRMM, the DEMAR project was launched in 2004. " The approach first involved developing a microelectronic system capable of stimulating the sensorimotor system, demonstrating that it was possible to restore movement, before seeking to model the muscles, then control movement. The research involves microelectronics and distributed software, "real-time" networks, control architecture and modelling.
From research to the implant market
In 2006, the team filed a patent on a network of implants capable of generating a complex stimulation profile. "Without an industrial partnership, our research would have very quickly come up against a wall. There is no interest in settling for laboratory prototypes, as our primary concern is improving the quality of life of patients. " DEMAR has established close ties with Vivaltis, a manufacturer of physiotherapy tools, and MXM, a company specialising in implants. Since early 2010, Vivaltis has marketed the first stimulator system without external wires, and MXM will market a new generation of cochlear implants in a few years. Lastly, the subsidiary MXM/Neuromedics is working on the development of neuroprostheses for various medical applications: standing for patients with spinal cord injuries, bladder control and peripheral pains. Innovations in the process of improving the lives of patients.