Groundbreaking Prosthetic Hand Pioneered by I³R at U of A Featured at White House Demo Day

Dewey Hickey, participant in I³R's on-going Neural-Enabled Prosthetic Hand System clinical trial, describes the sensation he feels in his prosthetic hand.
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Dewey Hickey, participant in I³R's on-going Neural-Enabled Prosthetic Hand System clinical trial, describes the sensation he feels in his prosthetic hand.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy invited the University of Arkansas Institute for Integrative & Innovative Research (I³R) to demonstrate its innovative prosthetic hand system at the 2023 American Possibilities: White House Demo Day held in Washington, D.C., an event designed to showcase the breakthrough advancements that are possible with federally funded research and development. 

Ranu Jung, Ph.D., U of A associate vice chancellor, founding executive director of I³R and distinguished professor of biomedical engineering, participated in the event accompanied by Dewey Hickey, the first Arkansan and only second person in the world to receive the novel prosthetic device, which restores a meaningful sense of touch and grip force to individuals with an upper limb amputation. 

Dewey Hickey (right), representing University of Arkansas, shakes hands with an individual (left) representing prosthetic innovations at Case Western Reserve University. . 

Dewey Hickey, participant in I³R’s on-going Neural-enabled Prosthetic Hand System clinical trial, shares his experience with Arati Prabhakar, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

“It’s an incredible honor to showcase the groundbreaking innovation pioneered by our research and development team,” said Jung. “Indeed ‘American Possibilities’ are what keep our nation on the leading-edge of innovation and federal funding is crucial to the advancement of breakthrough innovations like our Neural-Enabled Prosthetic Hand System — it is what makes achieving moonshot ideas possible.”

She added, “This is a total team effort requiring national-scale vision, long-term investment and leadership, and it’s a testament to the extraordinary heights we can achieve when we bring together academic, industry, government and non-profit sectors to make a positive societal impact.”

Ranu Jung, Ph.D. and Dewey Hickey showcase University of Arkansas innovations at the 2023 American Possibilities: A White Demo Day event. 

The ongoing clinical trial, titled Neural Enabled Prosthesis for Upper Limb Amputees, tests the novel prosthetic hand system, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for investigation. The system has the potential to deliver meaningful sensations of touch, grip force and hand opening to the user.

The project is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense and National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health. 

“It is also wonderful that the White House and representatives of many other federal agencies were able to meet Dewey and acknowledge the dedication and contributions of individuals like him who are committed to moving these technologies forward so that they may someday be available to others,” said Jung. “They are pioneering these innovations alongside us and their willingness to undergo rigorous assessment for the benefit of others as well as their honest feedback about their experience with innovations like our novel prosthetic hand system enables us to make adjustments in preparation for ultimately deploying at scale.”

In August, I³R announced a collaboration with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to expand the clinical trial. The collaboration, funded through a $4.9 million grant from the Department of Defense Joint Warfighter Medical Research Program, establishes Walter Reed as a second site for the clinical trial and expands it to U.S. service members and their dependents.  

In preparation for launching the collaboration, Walter Reed surgeons recently visited the U of A for training on the novel surgical procedures and techniques developed by the I³R engineering team to enable successful implantation of the neural-enabled prosthetic hand system. 

Ranu Jung, Ph.D., University of Arkansas associate vice chancellor, founding executive director of I³R and distinguished professor of biomedical engineering, and Dewey Hickey, participant in I³R’s on-going Neural-enabled Prosthetic Hand System clinical trial, talk about the impact of innovation with Maynard Holliday, PTDO Assistant Secretary of Defense for Critical Technologies at United States Department of Defense. 

In addition to research in advanced neural-enabled prosthetics, I³R is developing innovations in augmented and virtual reality with profound implications for wellhealth. The institute’s researchers are also helping create sustainable food systems by developing systems innovations that enable small regional farmers to connect to large regional food distribution networks.

“The University of Arkansas is at the forefront of transformative research that impacts lives and embodies our country’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Charles Robinson, U of A chancellor.

“Moreover, the university’s focus on research excellence, exemplified by groundbreaking initiatives including those led by I³R, is bolstering our national science and technology capabilities and demonstrating the opportunities that exist right here in Arkansas,” he said.

I³R’s current research projects fall under the umbrella of Integrative Health, the institute’s initial Grand Challenge. I³R is committed to take on the Grand Challenge of Integrative Health through an approach that recognizes the multiple physiological, social and environmental factors at play and utilizes a holistic and integrative strategy to produce impactful solutions that are deployable at scale. 

In late 2024, the institute will move to a new state-of-the-art facility at the heart of the University of Arkansas campus. The 144,000-square-foot building will house leading-edge technology, laboratory space and research equipment. Strategic capabilities will include early stage science and de-risking, human health and digital transformation technologies, materials characterization capabilities, and advanced manufacturing. 

About the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I³R): Established through a $194.7 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, the University of Arkansas Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research pioneers solutions to wicked problems through convergence research across academic, industry, government, and non-profit sectors to make a positive societal impact by creating and deploying innovations at scale. Learn more at i3r.uark.edu

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research and Economic Development News.

Contacts

Delia Garcia, Director of Strategic Communications and Engagement
Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research
479-718-3328, deliag@uark.edu

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