Rolex has used an event in Washington DC today to name the five 2019 Rolex Awards Laureates who will receive funding and other benefits for projects that will, it is judged, improve life on the planet.
The Rolex Awards for Enterprise are designed to foster a spirit of enterprise, advance human knowledge and well-being, and protect cultural heritage and the environment, the company says.
National Geographic, an organization that has been linked to Rolex since the early 1950s, hosted the National Geographic Explorers Festival where the 10 finalists of the 2019 Rolex Awards presented their projects.
The Rolex Awards jury – a group of independent experts – whittled down a field of 957 candidates to the 10 finalists who presented their projects in DC. The public were also given a say through a voting process promoted through social media as part of the process that chose the five winners.
Five Rolex Laureates were chosen from the 10 finalists. They are:
João Campos-Silva, 36, Brazil – In the Amazon, the giant arapaima, the world’s largest scaled freshwater fish, which weighs up to 200 kg, is headed for extinction. But in a close partnership with local associations and fishing leaders, the Brazilian fisheries ecologist has a plan to save not only the arapaima but with it, the livelihoods, food supply and culture of the indigenous communities who depend on the region’s rivers for survival.
Grégoire Courtine, 44, France – A scientist based in Switzerland, Courtine is developing a revolutionary approach to help people with paralysis walk again. His method relies on re-establishing communication between the brain and spinal cord using an implantable electronic “bridge”, potentially encouraging nerve regrowth and restoring control of the legs.
Brian Gitta, 26, Uganda – Delaying treatment for malaria for weeks while waiting for test results is common in rural Africa. Gitta is conducting trials on a novel, low-cost, portable device, the Matiscope, which provides results in minutes using light and magnets – without the need for a blood sample. In 2017, Africa had 200 million cases of malaria.
Krithi Karanth, 40, India – Conservation scientist Krithi Karanth is determined to reduce the friction between wildlife and people living near Indian national parks by reducing threats to people, property and livestock, raising conservation awareness in communities and schools and, importantly, assisting with compensation claims through a toll-free helpline service.
Miranda Wang, 25, Canada – Long involved in investigating how to solve the problem of plastic pollution, California-based, Canadian entrepreneur and molecular biologist Miranda Wang is spearheading an innovative process of turning unrecyclable plastic waste from items such as plastic bags and packing materials into valuable chemicals for use in industrial and consumer products, including making cars and electronics.