MassDevice Q&A: Grant McGimpsey

September 14, 2009 by Brian Johnson

The director of Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Bioengineering Institute on the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's impact on prosthetics research, the challenges facing the development of artificial arms and the institute's upcoming Neuroprosthetics 2009 symposium.

The late Sen. Edward Kennedy's impact on both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the country will live on in the policies he helped shape and push through Congress.

But another, lesser-known contribution from the youngest Kennedy brother to the field of prosthetics research will be on full display at Worcester Polytechnic Institute Sept. 16, when WPI hosts Neuroprosthetics 2009, its first symposium, at the Center for Neuroprosthetics.

Grant McGimpsey, director of the Bioengineering Institute, told MassDevice he first met with the late senator to discuss starting a neuroprosthetics research institute at WPI more than four years ago. Out of that meeting, and a trip to Walter Reed Medical Center's amputation ward, began a mission to help build a better arm.

McGimpsey told us about the genesis of the symposium, Kennedy's impact and the challenges facing the advancement of upper extremity prosthetics.

For more information about the event, which is free and open to all, visit the symposium website.

MassDevice: Can you tell us the genesis for this symposium? What's the goal?

Grant McGimpsey: About four years ago, we had a conversation with Sen. Kennedy. We knew about his interest in prosthetics and we were able to obtain some funding from congressional sources to start a multi-pronged project on implantable prosthetics. At that time I took a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center's amputation ward. I saw folks there that had come back from Iraq and I just knew I had to do something about it personally. It became a bit of a crusade for me.

We spent some time here thinking about how we might build a center for neuroprosthetics research. We approached the John Adams Innovation Institute in Westborough (Mass.) and asked them how we might get some support to build a center that would become self-sustaining as a research organization, with a focus on implantable prosthetics and neuroprosthetics. We submitted a proposal and got that funded last year. As part of the proposal there was a section on holding a national conference on prosthetics and that's what this symposium is.