Martin Evans was the first researcher to isolate and culture embryonic stem (ES) cells, a seminal discovery for which he jointly received the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Martin subsequently showed that ES cells could develop into fertile adult mice. This finding led him to realise that by selectively modifying genes in such cells, altered characteristics could be inherited by descendants of the resulting mice.
When combined with homologous recombination to form a powerful technology known as gene targeting, Martin’s ES cell discovery enabled the creation of valuable ‘knockout’ mice with highly controllable genetic characteristics. Knockout mice represent a way to study both basic physiology and a wide variety of human diseases, and have accelerated vital medical research ever since.
Martin has used his own technology to demonstrate a gene therapy for cystic fibrosis and to provide insights into breast cancer. He received a knighthood in 2004 in recognition of his services to medical science, and in 2006 was selected by The Independent as one of ten Britons who shaped our world.
For his seminal work on embryonic stem cells in mice, which revolutionised the field of genetics.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Jointly with Mario R. Capecchi and Oliver Smithies for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.