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Novartis Innovation Prize

Living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can bring with it numerous challenges. For many, loss of mobility is one of their biggest challenges, and it is said to be among the most disabling effects of MS, which can affect independence, employment and quality of life.

It is clear that more needs to be done to aid the mobility of those with MS. As such theNovartis Innovation Prize: Assistive Tech for Multiple Sclerosis was launched with the aim of addressing this issue and showcasing pioneering solutions to help bring independence to those living with MS. With the winner and runner up set to receive a $250,000 and $50,000 prize respectively, the development of ground-breaking innovation with the promise of advancing assistive tech for MS could come to fruition. 

To highlight the importance of this initiative, the competition spokeswoman was SPMS patient, actress and advocate Selma Blair. The competition was also supported by Srin Madipalli,Head of Accessibility at Airbnb and Tim Coetzee, Chief of Advocacy, Services, and Research Officer at the National MS Society.

We were thrilled to receive over 167 entries from 22 countries, all with the hopes of receiving the prize fund and developing their assistive technology. The entries received ranged from stylish accessories for mobility devices, specialized travel schedules for those with disabilities and apps designed to harness Artificial Intelligence to help users walk. It was extremely difficult to narrow down the entries as they each showcased innovative research and ways of helping those with MS gain a sense of mobility. However, only one winner and runner up could be chosen.

We are hugely excited to announce that the winner of the prize was Maayan Ziv from Canada. Maayan created AccessNow, a mobile app and web platform designed to empower people living with MS, as well as millions of others with disabilities, to live more independently. AccessNow provides people with insights and information on the accessibility status of locations, to help them navigate the world with greater confidence and ease.

The runner up is David Hojah from the USA. David pioneered Parrots, a socially assistive robot that empowers people with mobility and communication challenges with the ability to control, communicate and connect with the world. Parrots is a plug-and-play intelligent device, controlled by all kinds of abilities such as eye-tracking, with an inclusive user-friendly app. Parrots is designed to provide users with safe navigation, 360 computer vision, AI/ML smart communication with intuitive prediction and smart home connectivity.

This is just the first step for developing assistive technology to help improve the level of mobility and independence for those with MS and other neurological conditions. We are excited to see what the future holds for further MS innovations and look forward to more brilliant ground-breaking discoveries on the horizon.



  1. Jeffrey Dunn (2010) Impact of mobility impairment on the burden of caregiving in individuals with multiple sclerosis, Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research, 10:4, 433-440, DOI: 10.1586/erp.10.3
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