March 30, 2023

Innovation awards at the HBP Summit honour science to help patients

During the final HBP Summit in Marseille, Prof. Pieter Roelfsema and his team won a HBP Innovation Award for their work on “The Brain Prosthesis for the Blind”, while Prof. Philippe Ryvlin and Prof. Yannis Ioannidis and their teams won a HBP Innovation Award for their work on the “Medical Informatics Platform”. The innovation evaluation committee emphasised: “The innovations we selected all had high societal impact, and this impact could not have come about if the work was not of very high quality.”

Pieter Roelfsema


The first 2023 Innovation Award went to Prof. Pieter Roelfsema (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, NIN) and his team, for building a brain prosthetic device to restore vision in people who have become blind later in life. The device is wirelessly connected to a wearable camera and implanted in the visual cortex, translating visual input into brain stimulation patterns that induce phosphenes, which are small, pixel-like dots in the visual field. The induced phosphenes of many electrodes can be used to create the perception of shapes and contours. To build the device with currently 1000 electrodes, Roelfsema’s group collaborated strongly with both neurosurgeons and AI experts. After successfully demonstrating the effectiveness of the approach in animal models, it is the group’s ambition to move into humans in the next years. In accepting the award, Roelfsema said: “I’m very grateful to the people of the HBP, who made this competition possible and whose help went far beyond only funding, in providing indispensable computational tools such as the virtual human brain atlas.”

The second 2023 Innovation Award was presented to Prof. Philippe Ryvlin (University of Lausanne) and Prof. Yannis Ioannidis (University of Athens) and their team, for developing the Medical Informatics Platform (MIP), capable of providing advanced analytics for diagnosis and research in clinical neuroscience. Embedded into EBRAINS, this open-source and free-of-use software allows sharing of health datasets and is distributed across hospitals and institutions in different countries. It aims to better understand brain disease, develop novel biomarkers and predictive models of brain disease useful for clinical practice, and thereby have a direct impact on patient management. In their acceptance speech, Ioannidis said: “Whereas others in the field may work more in isolation, developing the MIP could only have come about with the interdisciplinary and collaborative approach made possible by the HBP.”


Yannis Ioannidis and Philippe Ryvlin


Since the last Innovation Award ceremony was virtual, awards were also handed over on stage to the winners of 2022, Viktor Jirsa Aix-Marseille University) and his team, for the Virtual Epileptic Patient, an EBRAINS open platform and workflow that uses personalized brain models and machine learning methods to estimate epileptogenic zone networks and aid surgical strategies. Prof. Marcello Massimini (University of Milan) and his team received the second 2022 Innovation Award for developing the Perturbational Complexity Index, encompassing a novel non-invasive approach able to detect minimal signs of consciousness in patients suffering in coma and other disorders of consciousness by measuring the complexity of EEG responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation.