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700 and counting

15 April 2013
Appeared in BioNews 700

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 (reported in BioNews 700) - or just 'Bob', as he was known - on Wednesday.

Reading the obituaries and the tributes which have been written about this remarkable man it is impossible to ignore the huge impact he has had on science, on bioethics and on ordinary people who now have a family thanks to his work.

Now all the major players whose pioneering work led to the word's first 'test tube' baby, Louise Brown, have all died. Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy have both passed on, as has Lesley Brown, the woman who put her faith in them. But their legacy lives on in the estimated 5 million people born through IVF.

In a much, much smaller way it sometimes seems almost as remarkable that BioNews has reached its 700th edition. Like Bob, BioNews has had applications for funding rejected, has come in for a fair dose of criticism and isn't on the Catholic Church's Christmas card list (see BioNews 700).

We would like to think that all involved with BioNews over the years have some of Bob's dogged determination and it is that which has kept BioNews going. Our firm belief remains that by informing as impartially as we can on developments in assisted conception, genetics, embryology and stem cell research and by publishing diverse opinion pieces, research and practice in these areas will thrive for everyone's benefit.

It is a laudable achievement that with a team of just three part-time staff (the equivalent of one person working full time) we have published 4,925 news articles, 968 opinion pieces and 239 reviews over the last 14 years. Although, admittedly, these figures fall way short of five million!

We are only able to deliver BioNews to your inbox each week thanks to the wonderful volunteers who give up their precious time each weekend to research and write news articles. We'd like to thank all the volunteers with special thanks to Rajesh who fixes some of the formatting glitches which creep in to the website.

We would also like to thank you, our readers. We are particularly pleased that BioNews' audience has continued to grow and now our readership is around 18,000 (still not troubling the five million mark).

More important developments in assisted reproduction are just around the corner. New techniques to avoid inherited mitochondrial disease (developed from the techniques pioneered by Bob) are within our grasp. There's also the launch of the 100,000 genomes project. BioNews wants to continue to keep you up to date with all this.

But just as the cost of whole genome sequencing has plummeted so has our income. That is why today I am asking all our readers to donate just £7 - a lot less than five million! That's just a penny for every edition we have published - surely they're worth that?


15 April 2013 - by Marco Narajos 
In the UK, around one in six couples has difficulty conceiving, and it is this desire to have children that drove two awe-inspiring men – Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe – to work together to perfect a technique known as IVF...
10 April 2013 - by Sarah Norcross 
Professor Sir Robert Edwards (27 September 1925-10 April 2013) has died after a long illness....
4 October 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
British scientist Professor Robert Edwards, 85, has been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in medicine for his ground-breaking IVF work...
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