WillowWood Global to open a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center
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MOUNT STERLING, Ohio, July 3, 2024 ~ WillowWood, a leading manufacturer of prosthetics and orthotics, has recently been awarded a grant of nearly $5 million over 5 years from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). This grant will establish a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) for Prosthetics and Orthotics, making WillowWood the first manufacturer to secure this award.

The RERCs are considered national centers of excellence for a specific area of rehabilitation. In this case, WillowWood will partner with The Ohio State University to collectively work on Innovative Design and Research for Enhancing Assistive Devices, also known as the IDEA Center. The goal of this center is to advance clinical care by focusing on the interface between human and device through digitization, sensorization, and adaptation. This research aims to positively impact patient health outcomes and overall performance.

According to Matt Wernke PhD, Director of Research and Development at WillowWood and Co-Principal Investigator for the IDEA Center, "The challenges for pairing a patient with their prosthesis or orthosis require multidisciplinary teams and multifaceted approaches to overcome. The RERC mechanism enables our team to partner with cross-functional experts to comprehensively transform the interface. We are grateful for this opportunity from NIDILRR."

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Heather Powell PhD, Professor at The Ohio State University and Co-Principal Investigator for the IDEA Center also expressed her excitement about this partnership saying, "Our team has been building towards this point for many years, and we are thankful to continue our research trajectories as well as explore novel ideas. I know our faculty and students are eager to engage in the IDEA Center."

This award brings WillowWood's total grant funding portfolio to $13 million secured in just the last 2 years. Daniel Rubin, Chief Operating Officer for WillowWood stated that "WillowWood remains focused on enabling the best clinical outcomes for patients, and this partnership with Ohio State University combined with the support from NIDILRR will help us continue to deliver a positive impact." He also highlighted the successful collaboration between WillowWood and The Ohio State University over the last 10 years, resulting in several commercialized products and award-winning presentations at domestic and international conferences. Rubin believes that through their past collaboration and projects included in the IDEA Center, they will greatly transform the interface between patient and device.

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Dean Ayanna Howard PhD, from The Ohio State University's College of Engineering, also expressed her enthusiasm for this partnership saying, "Ohio State's partnership with WillowWood has flourished, from numerous research grant collaborations to their investment in experiential learning through student capstone projects and the Robert E. Arbogast Teaching Laboratory. This latest victory for the team certainly bolsters the impact we are making together."

With this new grant, WillowWood and The Ohio State University are poised to make significant advancements in prosthetics and orthotics research, ultimately improving patient outcomes and performance. This partnership is a testament to their successful collaboration over the years and their dedication to finding innovative solutions for individuals with disabilities.
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