Nominations started coming in for this year’s Ryman Prize before entries were officially open, such is the regard held for the $250,000 prize, now in its fifth year.

Ryman Prize director David King says he’s delighted with the response and is looking forward to seeing what entries emerge this year.

“Five years on our aim remains the same – we want to give a pat on the back to the best thinkers and inventors in the world for the world for their work to enhance quality of life for older people.’’

The Ryman Prize is said to be the only award of its kind which is targeted at improving the health of older people. While there are plenty of prizes for medicine, there are none specifically aimed at the area of the health of older people. The Ryman Prize, which is modelled on the Nobel Prize for medicine and the Pritzker Prize, aims to fill that gap.

“Older people are the least researched of any age group. We hope we can turn the tide on this,” says King.

The prize winner is selected by an international jury and entry is open to the world’s brightest and best engineers, thinkers, scientists, clinicians or inventors.

The $250,000 prize will go to the best discovery, invention, medical advance, idea or initiative that enhances quality of life for older people.

The Ryman Prize has been awarded four times since its launch in 2015.

Last year’s winner was Japanese inventor Takanori Shibata, Chief Senior Research Scientist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan.

Professor Shibata was awarded the 2018 prize by The Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, for his tenacity in pursing new technology to help ease the burden of older people suffering from dementia.

In 1993 he set out to use the latest advances in artificial intelligence and robotics to create a device that would be a practical help to older people with conditions such as dementia.

His product, PARO, is a drug-free therapeutic robot that uses sensors, robotics and sophisticated Artificial Intelligence software to mimic a real seal.

It has been proven as an alternative to improve mood, reduce anxiety, decrease the perception of pain, enhance sleep and decrease feelings of loneliness in patients.

The 2017 Ryman Prize was won by Professor Peter St George-Hyslop, who leads research teams at Cambridge in the United Kingdom and the University of Toronto in Canada.

His research work has focused on discovering the key genes and proteins that cause cells to degenerate, causing early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The 2016 prize went to Professor Henry Brodaty, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher, and in 2015 the award went to Gabi Hollows, the founding director of the Fred Hollows Foundation, who was recognised for her work in helping restore sight to more than a million people.

The 2018 prized attracted a record number of entries and David King is expecting more interest this year.

“The aim of the prize is to reward great work so we’re looking forward to seeing what innovations come forward this year. We also hope that the idea of winning the prize will mean that a whole lot of people out there with great ideas to help older people will put them into action.’’

“We are now entering the greatest period of demographic change the world has ever seen. As the number of people aged 75+ in the world grows, so too do the issues they face. People are living longer and their health needs are becoming more complex. We hope the prize will help address these issues.’’

The prize could go to an initiative or invention as simple as a new walking cane or mobility device, or as complex as a medical advance. In Takanori’s case, it was for more than 20 years of dedicated work into the use of technology to help solve problems of old age.

Entry forms for the 2018 Ryman Prize are available at  Entries close at midnight on Friday, June 28, 2019 (New Zealand time).The Ryman Prize jury includes:

• Professor Brian Draper, Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.
• Professor Sarah Harper, Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing.
• Professor Tim Wilkinson, consulting geriatrician and Associate Dean of Medical Education, Otago School of Medicine.
• Dr Naoko Muramatsu, health and ageing research specialist, University of Illinois at Chicago.
• Professor Erwin Neher, Nobel Laureate and Professor at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Dr Neher is a biophysicist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1991.
• Dr David Kerr, Ryman Healthcare Chairman, Fellow and Past President of the New Zealand Medical Association, Fellow with Distinction, Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.


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