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Peter St George-Hyslop wins the Ryman Prize

Written by Ryman Healthcare
on February 15, 2018

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 the Right Honourable Bill English, Prime Minister of New Zealand, at a special presentation in Wellington today (August 9).

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 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.

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.’’

The prize was launched in 2015 and the inaugural prize was won by Gabi Hollows, the founding director of The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Gabi Hollows set up the charity with her late husband Professor Fred Hollows, and together they worked tirelessly to tackle the problem of preventable blindness in the developing world.

In the 26 years since the Hollows Foundation was established more than 1 million people have had their sight restored.

The 2016 prize was won by Professor Henry Brodaty. Professor Brodaty is a pioneer in diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia and his influence has been felt around the world.

About Peter St-George Hyslop: Professor St George-Hyslop is a British-Canadian geneticist and physician.

He was born in Kenya and was educated in the United Kingdom. He completed his medical training in Canada, graduating in 1976, before pursuing post-doctoral research in internal medicine and neurology at the University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School.

He served his first appointment at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital, where he taught molecular genetics and neurology from 1987 to 1991.

He was appointed to the University of Toronto in 1991, and since 2003 has held the university's highest rank of University Professor. Since 1995, St George-Hyslop has served as the director of the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.

In 2007 St George-Hyslop was appointed Professor of Experimental Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, where he still works.

He divides his time between Canada and the United Kingdom.

About the Ryman Prize:

The Ryman Prize is administered by the Ryman Foundation. The annual prize consists of a $250,000 grant which is awarded to the best invention, idea, research concept or initiative that has enhanced quality of life for older people.

The Ryman Prize is awarded in New Zealand but is open to anyone, anywhere in the world with a bright idea.

The prize is a philanthropic initiative aimed at improving the lot of those over 75 years of age. In Western countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, this is a significant demographic, which is set to more than double over the next 30 years. The rapid ageing of the population will be even more pronounced in the developing world. The prize pool has come from an anonymous donor and the prize is administered with support from Ryman Healthcare, New Zealand’s largest retirement village operator.

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 of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Media advisory: For interviews with Professor Peter St George-Hyslop or further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Ryman Prize director David King on 03 366 4069 (0064 3 366 4069) or 021 499 602 (0064 21 499 6902) Email david.king@rymanhealthcare.com.

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