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The "impossible" breakthrough


Professor Sir Martin Evans

Professor Sir Martin Evans’ award-winning work had been dismissed as impossible just 20 years before he made his breakthrough.

Sir Martin, Professor of Mammalian Genetics at the School of Biosciences, was the first to isolate the "Holy Grail" of medical genetics — embryonic stem cells which could be adapted for any purpose. He later developed techniques of modifying stem cells which would allow genetic alterations to be passed on to future generations. Conventional wisdom had said it would never be possible to do this accurately in mammals.

Sir Martin‘s technology allows scientists to engineer precise changes in tissue and is in use in research in cancer, immunology, neurobiology and a host of other fields.

Sir Martin has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, the most prestigious honour in world science. The Nobel Assembly announced Professor Sir Martin as one of three winners for "a series of ground-breaking discoveries concerning embryonic stem cells and DNA recombination in mammals."

Sir Martin was himself the first to show how gene therapy could be used to treat cystic fibrosis and has also produced important new insights into the breast cancer gene. The Independent newspaper recently listed him as "One of ten Britons who have shaped our world."