For more than 40 years, the Rolex Awards have supported individuals with projects that advance human knowledge, protect cultural heritage or help preserve natural habitats and species. Discover the 2019 finalists and vote.
Rolex Awards for Enterprise 2019
The Rolex Awards for Enterprise were launched in 1976 as part of a conviction that Rolex had a responsibility to take an active interest in improving life on our planet. Since then, 140 pioneers have implemented projects that have advanced knowledge, protected human well-being and the environment. This year, 10 finalists present their inspiring projects that aim to make the world a better place. Discover more about the awards on the link.
Join a Jury of experts to help select the five 2019 Laureates who will be supported by Rolex. Voting is now open until 12 June. Discover all 10 finalists and vote on https://www.rolex.org/rolex-awards/finalists.
Grégoire Courtine – Help paralysed people walk again
In what would have seemed a miracle until very recently, the French researcher, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, has devised an electronic “bridge” to bypass the site of the back injury, enabling the brains of spinal patients to take command of their legs once more – and walk.
Courtine’s research goal is an implantable neuroprosthetic bridge between the patient’s brain and lumbar spinal cord, supported by wireless technology. This system conveys signals from the brain controlling voluntary movement to the legs via electrical stimulation of the lower spinal cord and helps damaged spinal nerves recover.
“I will never stop developing a treatment for spinal cord injury until there is a cure.”
“Movement has always been very important for me because of my love of sport,” Courtine, who is an avid rock climber and extreme sports fan, explains. “This is why I decided to study how the brain controls movement.” A chance meeting with a young paralysed athlete in a wheelchair crystallized his determination to find a solution.”
Courtine, who is aged 42, recently helped restore walking in three long-paralysed men, who can now stand and walk short distances on crutches. He next plans to conduct a clinical trial involving three patients who have been paralysed for about a year. They will gradually re-learn to walk using the bridge and a suspended harness.
This experiment will establish the technological and conceptual framework for developing a fully implantable brain-spine interface that may one day become a common medical treatment for people who can no longer walk because of spinal injury.
Sara Saeed – Women doctors for telemedicine in Pakistan
In the rugged hill country of Pakistan, doctors are scarce – and many families suffer from lack of medical care. But Pakistani doctor Sara Saeed believes she has the answer. At the same time, in the cities, thousands of well-qualified female doctors are staying home, unable to practice their vocation.
“Pakistan has a population of 200 million people and 50 per cent do not get access to health care.”
Weaving the two issues together with digital technology, Saeed has created a telemedicine delivery system that can potentially work in remote communities around the world. Aged 32, she is co-founder and CEO of Sehat Kahani, a service that connects home-based female doctors with people in rural and impoverished communities in a low-cost, service via an electronic health (e-Health) network.
“A lot of female doctors here do not work after getting their degree. Instead they become ‘doctor brides’ and stay home with their family. We’re putting these female doctors back into the workforce within the cultural norms that exist in Pakistan and connecting them to patients in poor and rural communities, using digital technology.”
Her network of 23 e-health clinics across Pakistan serves 86,000 patients. It employs 1,500 female doctors and more than 90 nurses and field health workers. Recently it has included Pakistani female doctors living overseas, making its services available round the clock. Saeed plans to expand her network to 100 e-clinics, delivering affordable healthcare to up to 10 million people by 2023. The result is a model that not only saves lives and delivers affordable care – but also empowers skilled women to reach their full potential.
Miranda Wang – Recycling unrecyclable plastic waste
If 25 year-old Canadian entrepreneur Miranda Wang fulfils her goal, a third of the world’s plastic waste – which now chokes landfills, rivers and oceans – could be converted into new wealth. Her company BioCellection is developing an array of unique technologies to turn the worst of the world’s plastic wastes into valuable industrial chemicals used in the making of familiar products like cars, electronic goods, textiles and cleaning agents.
“Globally, only 9 per cent of all the plastics we produce every year is being recycled.”
“We’re taking plastics that are not recyclable today – things like dirty plastic bags or single-use packaging materials – and we transform them into valuable chemicals which can then be used to make durable materials for products that we all love and use every day.”
Determined, as a teenage student, to solve the global waste challenge, Wang founded BioCellection in Silicon Valley to pioneer fresh answers to the emerging global plastics crisis. She has since developed technologies to transform soiled, contaminated and unrecyclable plastics like polyethylene (PE) into renewable, quality chemicals with a high market value.
Wang now plans to develop a fully-commercial processing plant and recycle 45,500 tonnes of plastic waste by 2023, so eliminating 320,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions, producing useful products from substances that society would otherwise throw away, to the detriment of the planet.
Join a Jury of experts to help select the five 2019 Laureates who will be supported by Rolex. Voting is now open until 12 June. Discover all 10 finalists and vote on https://www.rolex.org/rolex-awards/finalists .
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