Thursday, August 22, 2019
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University of Moratuwa steps into Biomedical Innovation

The Centre for Biomedical Innovation (CEBI) was established at the University of Moratuwa in 2017 with the vision of becoming South Asia’s premier research and development hub for biomedical devices. This Centre is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.
Importance of Biomedical Innovation
Biomedical innovation taps into both Medical Sciences and Engineering disciplines to bring forth devices that better equip the Healthcare Sector. If it weren’t for the fusion of the two, the likes of pacemakers, artificial limbs, x-ray and other diagnostic imaging systems, or health monitoring systems may not have been possible. The advancement of biomedical innovation will ensure better health for all.
Areas of Interest
CEBI fosters multidisciplinary research and aims to commercialise their products. The current focus is on the following areas:
o Assistive technology and rehabilitation.
o Sports performance and ergonomics.
o Orthopaedics and musculoskeletal injuries.
o Assistive tools and techniques for surgical procedures
o Diagnosis, detection and prevention for Diabetes

Within these areas, CEBI concentrates on developing new knowledge and products for preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic and personal care.
Key people in operations
The Centre is headed by Dr. Pujitha Silva, an expert in Biomedical Engineering. Pujitha completed his Bachelor of Engineering in 1999 from the Queensland University of Technology, and then his PhD in 2005 from the University of Queensland, Australia. He is a committed academic and a researcher.
Mr. Shalika Siriwardhana is the Project Manager at CEBI. Shalika is from a Chemical Engineering background with Bachelor’s in Chemistry from the University of Peradeniya, Master’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Moratuwa, and has also earned an MBA degrees from both Imperial College-London, and the University of Colombo. He has extensive industry experience.
Research Engineer, Ms. Bahavathy Kathirgamanathan has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and an MPhil from the University of Moratuwa.
Ms. Shalini Udapitiya has joined CEBI as a research assistant. Her background is in Chemical Engineering. She is reading for her MPhil at the University of Moratuwa.
Research assistant, Ms. Chathurani Dias specialises in Biomedical & Electronics Engineering and supports the team. She holds a Bachelors degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Moratuwa.
The administrative and collaborative activities of the Centre are coordinated by Ms. Nilusha De Silva, a specialist in Environmental Management. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geography, from the University of Colombo and a Master’s in Environmental Management and Development from the Australian National University.
Major projects
Among several development initiatives, a key focus for CEBI, is the project to develop an insole with a special Hydrogel material, primarily, an effort towards therapeutic and personal care areas. This project is funded by the World Bank under the Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development (AHEAD) initiative that supports research in the higher education sector.
The main objective of the Hydrogel insole is to ease the foot discomfort experienced by diabetic patients. Pujitha, has higher expectations and believes the product has further potential.
He says, “I want these insoles to benefit and reach many segments in the society, such as the ones who are on their feet for long hours, while proving to be therapeutic towards diabetic patients”.
The Hydrogel insole designed by CEBI surpasses its competitors by the superior properties it possesses, such as its ability to distribute foot-pressure evenly, while providing a cooling effect; since Hydrogel is water-based, the insole can extract heat.
Also, it has greater cushioning capabilities. Medicines and herbal extracts can also be introduced to the gel, enhancing its therapeutic properties.
Tests are being carried out for mechanical stresses and environmental impacts that could affect the performance of the insole. Shalika added, “if the requirement arises, the gel can be extracted, renewed or enhanced with supplements then reintroduced into the insoles”.
Key student projects
CEBI also supports student projects summarised below:
Detecting early symptoms of Diabetes by Macro-Vascular Tortuosity – A mechanism to analyse medical images of the eye to help identify the early onset of diabetes.
Profiling, detection and progress monitoring of foot complications using foot temperature – Utilises Infra-red Thermography to help clinicians detect ulceration and wounds of the foot.
Detection of alterations in bone quality – Design and development of a device that analyses bone quality and provides readings to detect bone disease.
Motion analysis for swimmers with wearable sensors – A suit embedded with sensors which captures the motions of the swimmer and projects them on to a screen via animation. The data could be used to enhance the skills of the swimmer.
Universally accessible Pill Dispenser – The proof of concept has been established for a pill dispenser that could be developed in different scales, i.e. for personal use as well as for the use in medical institutions or care homes.
EMG-EEG hybrid signal controlled Transhumeral Prosthesis – Development of a prosthesis to assist with the postsurgical rehabilitation of patients who undergo amputation in the forelimbs.
EEG-Controlled Meal Assistance Robot – An assistive device that uses a camera to detect the position and the movements of the mouth to mechanise the feeding process of patients that have trouble in self-administering food.
Collaborations
The Centre has established collaborations with several local and foreign entities. Local collaborators include the Universities of Colombo and Sri Jayewardenepura, the National Science Foundation, SLINTEC and the MRI, local industries, such as the D. Samson group of companies well known for the DSI brand. The Samson group will assist CEBI with their commercialisation process when the Hydrogel insole is market ready. Foreign collaborators include the Imperial College- London, Auckland Bioengineering Institute of the University of Auckland and Kyushu University in Japan.
Challenges for Biomedical Innovation
Importation of goods to Sri Lanka come with considerable amount of red tape. This is a problem since many components and material needed for the devices being built are still not manufactured in Sri Lanka. Recent adverse fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates have not particularly been helpful for imports.
Scientists at CEBI have noted that national focus towards biomedical innovation needs to be streamlined to face some of these challenges and are hoping for better support and direction from the government.
Future aspirations
CEBI is keen to pursue and diversify into areas, such as consulting and big data analytics. Along with the help of many experts from other disciplines that are supporting the Centre, such as the Electronic and Telecommunications Engineering, Chemical and Process Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics, Medicine and Surgery, Material Science, Chemistry and Business Management, Pujitha is confident that they could provide consultation to the Sri Lankan Healthcare sector.
Director CEBI, Dr. Pujitha Silva says, “through collaboration, we can learn and benefit from each other tremendously. We are on the lookout for interesting projects with new partners”. Pujitha extends an open invitation to local and foreign universities, research institutes and business organisations to join with them towards building a better future for all, with Biomedical Innovation.

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