New funding will help CRANIA design next generation of assistive technologies for people living with disabilities

Game-changing new device would have the potential to restore movement for people paralyzed by spinal cord injury

CRANIA scientists Drs. José Zariffa and Roman Genov have received more than $800,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to develop a bidirectional, selective, and implantable peripheral nerve interface designed to restore movement for people paralyzed by spinal cord injury.  

The game-changing implantable microchip would monitor activity in the peripheral nerve using A.I. algorithms and then make decisions about how to stimulate it to assist with movements a patient is trying to complete based on that information.   

“We’re very grateful for CIHR support and we’re really excited to be able to develop technology that’s going to help us create the next generation of assistive technologies for individuals living with disabilities,” Zariffa said of the five year funding commitment.

The project was kick-started in 2020 when Zariffa and Genov received seed funding from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Engineering.

This latest round of funding will allow the CRANIA team to continue its ground-breaking work which has the potential to not only benefit patients with spinal cord injuries, but also amputees who use prosthetics.

Zariffa’s team is responsible for creating signal processing and machine learning methods for selective recording in the microchip.  Genov’s team is responsible for building the microchip and designing the selective stimulation methods it will use.

Drs. Zariffa and Genov are co-PIs on this project and are collaborating with fellow CRANIA scientists Drs. Xilin Liu, Paul Yoo as well as Sunnybrook Hospital’s Dr. Jana Dengler, and NerveX Neurotechnologies. A company founded by CRANIA co-founder Dr. Taufik Valiante and former CRANIA trainee Dr. Gerard O’Leary that develops neuromodulation devices.