A world-renowned researcher has won the 2017 Ryman Prize in recognition of his more than 30 years of ground-breaking contribution to research into Alzheimer’s Disease.

Professor Peter St George-Hyslop, who splits his time between research labs at the Universities of Toronto and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, has won the 2017 Ryman Prize for his more than 30 years of research into neuro-degenerative diseases.

His research work has focused on discovering the key genes and proteins that cause cells to degenerate in diseases such as early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

His work has also helped other research better understand other neuro-degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, motor neuron disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob (mad cow) disease.

He was presented with the prize by Prime Minister Bill English in Wellington this week.

Ryman Prize juror Dr Naoko Muramatsu said Professor St George-Hyslop’s research had led to a much better understanding of neuro-degenerative diseases.

“Since the mid-1980s he has carried out pioneering research in a field which was little understood. Millions of people around the world have Alzheimer’s and Peter’s research has had a profound influence on its understanding, and the ability to diagnose and treat it. He thoroughly deserves this award for his many decades of commitment to scientific discovery, teaching, and sheer hard work.’’

“He has also been a prolific research author, and his 390 published scientific papers have been cited by other researchers more than 33,000 times. This means that his discoveries have been widely disseminated to form the basis of other research and discoveries.’’

Professor St George-Hyslop said he was chuffed to win.

“The prize came as a complete surprise – but one that is exceptionally exciting for two reasons. At a personal level, it is obviously thrilling to have one’s professional work and the work of one’s colleagues publicly recognised. However, there is a much larger importance to this prize. It signifies a sea-change in how society perceives disorders affecting the health and well-being of their older members. It signals a growing understanding of the urgency of getting to grips with these increasingly common, devastating conditions that impact not only those individuals affected by them, but also their family and their caregivers, and the state in which they live.’’

The Ryman Prize, launched in 2015, is a $250,000 international prize which rewards the best work in the world that has enhanced quality of life for older people. It is the world’s richest prize of its type and was established to create the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for people working in the field of the health of older people. Previous winners include Gabi Hollows and Professor Henry Brodaty.

Gordon MacLeod, Chief Executive of Ryman Healthcare, said the aim of the prize was to encourage the best and brightest minds in the world to think about the health of older people.

“We’re delighted to support the prize because it recognises the importance of this field of healthcare. The world’s population is rapidly ageing, and people are living longer with chronic diseases. These issues have no borders – we want to do everything we can to help tackle what is a worldwide problem.’’



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