Stein, Dr. Richard B.

2009 Finalist: Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Science

Research Helps Disabled Be Mobile

After the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, Dr. Richard Stein remembers reading a news report about a man who had run down 70 flights of steps using a C-Leg Dr. Stein and his colleague, engineer Kelly James, had invented.

“It’s a pretty dramatic case about how someone’s life depended on what we’d done,” he says. Dr. Stein is research professor and professor emeritus in the Centre for Neuroscience he founded at the University of Alberta. His research and inventions over the past five decades have helped thousands of people with disabilities from spinal injuries, brain injuries, amputations, strokes and other catastrophic neurological events.

“The few successes we have make all the long hours in the lab and all the failures we have, worthwhile,” he says. That’s an understatement. Dr. Stein is considered to be one of the leaders of movement and rehabilitation neuroscience in Canada and internationally.

Dr. Stein studied physics before entering into the field of physiology. This background in both physical and biomedical sciences has led to his contributions that span science, medicine, mathematics, and engineering. His work has contributed to mathematical models that clarify how the nervous system works. And his engineering insights have produced practical devices, like the C-Leg, that are being sold around the world and improving the lives of people with a variety of disabilities. Dr. Stein also developed a new method for controlling electrical stimulation for people with foot drop, a debilitating condition that arises from stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and brain injury.

He has had five patents issued to him and is the co-founder and president of Biomotion Ltd, a company mandated to transfer technology from the University to Alberta industry or business and develop it to produce clinically useful and profitable products.  The products he invented received the DaVinci Award in 2006 and 2007. The international award recognizes the most innovative adaptive and assistive technologies that enable equal access and opportunity for all people, regardless of ability. In 2001 Dr Stein received the Canadian Medical Association’s Medal of Honour, the highest award the association bestows on a person who is not a member of the medical profession. Dr. Stein is also recognized for his collaborative work with over 200 scientists from over 25 countries, including all of the young scientists he has mentored.

“The thing with neuroscience, is that we’ve learned 90 per cent of what we know in the past 10 years,” Dr. Stein explains. “This is just the beginning. Neuroscience is a rapidly burgeoning field with lots of exciting discoveries to be made in the next 30 to 40 years. I encourage students to explore and innovate in trying to understand the brain for the practical benefits to people with disabilities.”