For more than 20 years the BNP Paribas Foundation has supported medical research as a partner of the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FRM) - “Foundation for Medical Research”.

Thanks to this special partnership more than 20 research teams have received financial support and some 200 bursaries have been granted. In 2010 the Foundation decided to give the partnership new momentum by launching the BNP Paribas Foundation Award for Scientific Innovation. The aim of the Award is to support highly innovative research into changes taking place in the human body and thus further the development of therapeutic innovations to address the health issues of tomorrow.

The winners of the 2011 Award, the very first, are Jean-René Cazalets and Jean-Marie Cabelguen, research scientists at the Bordeaux Institute of Neurosciences, for their project on a robotic orthosis designed to restore mobility to the body's trunk. The project came to the notice of the BNP Paribas Foundation when the researchers responded to a call for tender to the FRM programme Pionniers de la recherche (Research Pioneers) – on the theme of Interfaces cerveau-machine (Brain-machine interfaces).

At the crossroads of biology, informatics and robotics, the Cazalets-Cabelguen research project aims to discover the principles governing the workings of the human axial muscle system, starting out from the results of neurobiological experiments on the salamander. The salamander is the model of choice when unlocking the secrets of the functioning of the nervous system in vertebrates, as it shows close similarities with human beings in the way it maintains stability when in motion.

The objective of the research project is to eventually be able to restore walking ability to patients who have suffered damage to the central nervous system, by fitting them with a robotic trunk brace.

The Award ceremony took place on 2 May 2011, at the Maison de la Recherche in Paris. BNP Paribas Chairman Michel Pébereau and FRM President Jacques Bouriez presented the BNP Paribas Foundation Award for Scientific Innovation to Dr Cazalets and Professor Cabelguen, whose research team will receive a two year (2011-2012) grant.

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