First test tube baby 'delighted' at Nobel for IVF pioneer

4th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The world's first test tube baby said Monday she was "delighted" that Robert Edwards, the pioneering scientist who made her birth possible, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Louise Brown, in a joint statement with her mother Lesley, said: "It's fantastic news, me and mum are so glad that one of the pioneers of IVF (in vitro fertilisation) has been given the recognition he deserves.

"We hold Bob in great affection and are delighted to send our personal congratulations to him and his family at this time."

Louise's birth in 1978 was the first to stem from the groundbreaking work of Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, a gynaecologic surgeon.

She is now a mother herself, having given birth by natural means.

Although Edwards, now 85, is too frail to give interviews, his wife Ruth said the family was "thrilled and delighted" at the honour.

"The success of this research has touched the lives of millions of people worldwide," she said.

"His dedication and single-minded determination despite opposition from many quarters has led to successful application of his pioneering research."

Edwards and Steptoe, who died in 1988, developed IVF technology in which egg cells are fertilised outside the body and implanted in the womb.

Congratulations poured in from across Britain's science community and from colleagues of Edwards -- although some wondered why it had taken so long for the Nobel committee to recognise his work.

Mike Macnamee, chief executive of Bourn Hall, near Cambridge, the IVF clinic which Edwards founded, said: "Bob Edwards is one of our greatest scientists.

"His inspirational work in the early sixties led to a breakthrough that has enhanced the lives of millions of people worldwide."

Tom Matthews, the clinic's medical director, said that on first meeting Edwards in 1983 he had been "immediately impressed with his passion and enthusiasm" for his work, as well as his insistence on high standards.

"Even in those early days he was thinking ahead of his time, talking about freezing embryos, blastocyst culture, long before people had thought these scientific techniques could be a reality," Matthews said.

"As a person he always found time to talk to the patients about what was happening in the laboratory and rejoiced when each IVF baby was born. He took great personal pleasure in the news of each birth."

Martin Johnson, Professor of Reproductive Sciences at the prestigious Cambridge University, where Edwards carried out his pioneering research, said: "I am absolutely delighted. This is long overdue."

He added: "Bob's work has always been controversial but he has never shrunk from confronting that controversy.

"He was a real visionary, and always ahead of his time on so many issues. He is also an amazing human being -- warm and generous."

© 2010 AFP

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