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Robert G Edwards Wins Nobel for In-Vitro Fertilization

A British physiologist and pioneer in reproductive medicine, Robert G. Edwards, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing in-vitro fertilization. The former University of Cambridge professor, 85, will get the 10 million-kronor ($1.5 M) prize. His research partner, Patrick Steptoe, died in 1988.

As a young researcher, Edwards began work on mice reproduction.

  • He studied fertilized eggs collected from female mice, which tend to ovulate at night, according to the citation when he won the Albert Lasker award for clinical medical research in 2001;
  • After 3 years of midnight visits to the lab, he found a way to coax the animals to ovulate during daytime;
  • He also developed a way to prod dormant eggs to mature outside the female’s body.

Edwards began working on humans by persuading gynecologists to give him slices of human ovaries from women who underwent surgery. In 1969, he published a paper in which he described having achieved fertilization outside a woman’s body. He joined forces with Steptoe, who collected ripened eggs directly from women’s ovaries.

  • This work made it possible to treat infertility, which affects more than 10% of all couples worldwide;
  • Demand for fertility treatments are booming estimated that in the US, $4 B is spent annually on fertility services and the number of IVF procedures has almost tripled to 142,000 since 1999;
  • The global market for fertility drugs is more than $1 B, the research firm found. (HWM and Bloomberg)