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Professor Robert Edwards awarded Nobel Prize for pioneering work in IVF

04 October 2010

By Antony Blackburn-Starza

Appeared in BioNews 578

British scientist Professor Robert Edwards, 85, has been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in medicine for his ground-breaking in vitro fertilisation (IVF) work.

Professor Edwards' pioneering work began in the 1950s and cumulated in success in July 1978 when Louise Brown, the first 'test-tube' baby, was born in the UK. Working with Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988, he successfully adapted a technique previously used in animals to safely remove eggs from the ovaries, fertilise them outside the human body and implant them into the womb. Since the birth of Louise Brown, more than four million babies worldwide have been born through IVF.

The Karolinska Institutet, responsible for selecting the Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, said Professor Edwards' contributions represented a 'milestone in the development of modern medicine'. In a statement it said: '[Professor Edwards'] achievements have made it possible to treat infertility, a medical condition afflicting a large proportion of humanity including more than 10 percent of all couples worldwide'.

Professor Edwards' work laid the foundations for further developments in fertility treatment, including techniques such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Speaking on behalf of Professor Edwards and his family, his wife, Ruth, said: 'The family are thrilled and delighted that Professor Edwards has been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for the development of IVF.

'The success of this research has touched the lives of millions of people worldwide'.

Martin Johnson, Professor of Reproductive Sciences at the University of Cambridge, also welcomed the news. 'I am absolutely delighted. This is long overdue', he said. 'Bob's work has always been controversial, but he has never shrunk from confronting that controversy. He was a real visionary and always ahead of his time on so many issues - not just IVF - also on PGD in the 1960s, stem cells in the 1970s, and the whole process of thinking ethically.

'He is also an amazing human being - warm and generous', he said.

Mike McNamee, chief executive of Bourn Hall, the world's first assisted conception clinic co-founded by Professor Edwards in 1980, said: 'Bob Edwards is one of our greatest scientists. His inspirational work in the early 1960s led to a breakthrough that has enhanced the lives of millions of people worldwide'.

Dr Luca Gianaroli, chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), of which Professor Edwards is a founding member and its first chairman in 1985, said: 'Without Bob there would be no ESHRE and no Human Reproduction [the journal], and all of us working in reproductive medicine would be the poorer for that'.

Born in Yorkshire in 1925, Professor Edwards was driven by a motivation to help infertile couples conceive. 'The most important thing in life is having a child', he once said. 'Nothing is more special than a child'.

Professor Edwards was awarded the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 2001 by the Lasker Foundation for his work in IVF.

 

 


 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

15 April 2013 - by Professor Martin H Johnson 
Robert Geoffrey Edwards, or 'Bob' as his colleagues and friends knew him, is one of the true giants of the 20th century... [Read More]
15 April 2013 - by Sarah Norcross 
Welcome to the 700th edition of BioNews. The hyperbole we were planning to use to celebrate this landmark no longer seems appropriate given the sad news of the death of Professor Sir Robert Edwards - or just 'Bob', as he was known - on Wednesday.... [Read More]
25 February 2013 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Eleven scientists have each won £2 million as part of a prize to recognise the achievements of biomedical researchers, launched by entrepreneurs including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sergey Brin... [Read More]
04 February 2013 - by Sandy Starr 
In 2010, Professor Sir Robert Edwards was awarded a long overdue Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for his the part he played in pioneering both the theory and practice of IVF. This conference focused on the kind of cutting-edge research that takes Professor Edwards' legacy forward... [Read More]
08 October 2012 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
Professor Sir John Gurdon of the University of Cambridge has been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on stem cells. He shares the prize for medicine or physiology with Professor Shinya Yamanaka from Japan... [Read More]

02 August 2010 - by Professor Sarah Franklin, Dr Nick Hopwood and Professor Martin Johnson 
In 1971, reproductive biologist Dr Robert Edwards and gynaecologist Mr Patrick Steptoe applied to the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) requesting funding for research into human in vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer. Their application was rejected... [Read More]
23 July 2010 - by Professor Alan Handyside 
At the beginning of this month, following the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual meeting in Rome, a workshop was held to celebrate 20 years of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)... [Read More]
21 July 2008 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, will next week celebrate her 30th birthday - but as parents and children born through IVF representing each year since Louise was born came together at Bourn Hall fertility clinic to mark the occasion, many commentators have pointed to the continued... [Read More]
28 July 2003 - by BioNews 
A party was held at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge, UK, this weekend, to celebrate the 25th birthday of Louise Brown, the world's first baby born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in July, 1978. More than 1000 people conceived by IVF, as well as their families and some of the... [Read More]
10 June 2002 - by BioNews 
According to a story printed in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, Professor Robert Edwards, who worked with the late Patrick Steptoe to pioneer the development of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in the late 1970s, is in favour of human cloning. The newspaper says that Edwards would back the creation of human clones... [Read More]

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