IVF pioneer wins medicine Nobel prize

Mon Oct 4, 2010 5:09pm EDT
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By Mia Shanley

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - British physiologist Robert Edwards, whose work led to the first "test-tube baby", won the 2010 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology, the prize-awarding institute said on Monday.

Sweden's Karolinska Institute lauded Edwards, 85, for bringing joy and hope to the more than 10 percent of couples worldwide who suffer from infertility.

Known as the father of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Edwards picked up the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5 million) for what the institute called a "milestone in the development of modern medicine".

As many as 4 million babies have been born since the first IVF baby in 1978 as a result of the techniques Edwards developed, together with a now-deceased colleague, Patrick Steptoe, the institute said in a statement.

"Bob Edwards changed the way we think about having babies," said Dr Alan Thornhill, scientific director of the London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Center.

The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes IVF as an affront to human dignity that destroys more human life than it creates because scientists discard or store unused fertilized embryos.

"In vitro fertilization has led directly to the deliberate destruction of millions of human embryos," said Professor David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Center, a Catholic research institute in Oxford, England.


<p>British physiologist Robert Edwards (L) is seen attending the 30th birthday celebrations of Bourn Hall, a fertility clinic he co-founded in Cambridge, with Lesley Brown, her daughter Louise - the first baby to be conceived by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) - and Louise's son Cameron, in this July 12, 2008 handout file photograph, received in London on September 4, 2010. Edwards, who helped revolutionise the treatment of human infertility, has clinched the 2010 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology, a Swedish daily reported on Monday. REUTERS/Copyright Bourn Hall/Files/Handout</p>