British scientist Prof Robert Edwards who pioneered IVF treatment has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his achievements in the treatment of infertility.

Former Cambridge physiologist Prof Robert Edwards, now 85, developed the fertility treatment that led to the birth of the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown in 1978.

Together with his colleague Dr Patrick Steptoe, a gynaecologic surgeon, they created the technique of fertilising human eggs outside the body before implanting in the womb. Dr Steptoe died in 1988.

As well as leading to a host of new treatments for infertility, the work also founded the principles behind stem cell research, cloning and techniques that would allow couples to prevent passing on inheritable diseases to their children.

Christer Höög, professor of molecular biology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and a member of the Nobel Prize Committee, said the birth represented a “paradigm shift”

“It showed for the first time that it is possible to treat infertility,” he said.

Prof Edwards’ work was highly controversial at the time and there was strong opposition to what was seen as ‘playing God’ and the research had to be privately funded.

However IVF has now become routine around the world with more than four million babies worldwide using the technique and developments from it.

Louise Brown and others born as a result of the technique have had children of their own conceived naturally.

Louise, who had a son in 2007, said: “Its fantastic news, me and mum are so glad that one of the pioneers of IVF 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.”

Mike Macnamee, chief executive of Bourn Hall, near Cambridge, the IVF clinic which Edwards and Steptoe founded, said: “Bob Edwards is one of our greatest scientists. His inspirational work in the early ’60s led to a breakthrough that has enhanced the lives of millions of people worldwide.

“Bob Edwards is held in great affection by everyone that has worked with him and was treated by him. I am really pleased that my great mentor, colleague and friend has been recognised in this way.”

Prof Edwards, who is understood to be too ill to speak about the Nobel Prize has in the past said: “The most important thing in life is having a child. Nothing is more special than a child.”

One of his proudest moments was discovering that 1,000 IVF babies had been born at Bourn Hall since Louise Brown.

He has recalled the thrill of relaying this to a seriously ill Dr Steptoe, shortly before Dr Steptoe’s death. “I’ll never forget the look of joy in his eyes,” Prof Edwards has said.

Martin Johnson, Professor of Reproductive Sciences at the University of Cambridge, said: “I am absolutely delighted. This is long overdue.

“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 – not just IVF – also on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis in the 60s, stem cells in the 70s, and the whole process of thinking ethically.

“He is also an amazing human being – warm and generous. He was shocked when the MRC accused him of behaving unethically because everything he has done was based on a very clear set of humanist and ethical principles. It has taken 20 or 30 years for some people to catch up with him.”

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at University of Sheffield: “I am absolutely delighted and overwhelmed to hear this news and it is long overdue.

“Bob was a visionary and worked hard to develop IVF in a time when so many were against him.

“It is a tribute to his tenacity that he persevered in his research and as a consequence has changed the lives of millions across the world. My only sadness is that Bob’s failing health may mean that he is less able to enjoy this award than he once was. This is a great day for him.”

Prof Edwards has been studying animal and human reproduction since the 1950s when he teamed up with Dr Patrick Steptoe at his clinic in Oldham in 1968.

Together they were the first to successfully fertilise a human egg outside the body.

Their basic science led to many discoveries about human reproduction including how eggs mature, how their growth is regulated by different hormones and when in their development they can be fertilised with sperm.

However, it would take almost another decade before they were ready to attempt to implant a fertilised egg in a woman.

They encountered problems in encouraging the fertilised egg to begin to divide – a process vital for human life to begin and the egg to become an embryo.

Prof Edwards suspected that the eggs needed to be mature before they were fertilised and that this process occurred in the ovaries.

Eventually they were able to harvest human eggs and sperm at the right times, keep them alive outside the body in a dish and mix them together so that the sperm fertilised an egg. The resulting fertilised egg then began to divide and was implanted in the womb.

The first attempts to implant the resulting embryos in a woman were made in 1972 but there were repeated failures.

In 1978 they were successful and Louise Brown was born on July 25th. She was dubbed the first ‘test-tube’ baby although the process actually occurs in a dish.

Prof Edwards became affectionately known as the ‘father of IVF’ and went on to further develop and share the technique.

The pair founded the Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge two years after Louise Brown was born and began treating infertile couples.

The basic IVF technique has led to a host of new treatments for infertility and has allowed fertile couples carrying inheritable diseases to avoid passing them on to their children.

Prof Edwards work also led to discoveries about stem cells and cloning.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)
Having been diagnosed with unexplained infertility I went for treatment with Daian. She made me feel at ease straight away and gave me support and advice alongside the weekly acupuncture sessions. Three months later I discovered I was pregnant (without any other interventions). We welcomed our baby into the world almost 11 months to the day after my first visit to Daian. I really believe it would not have been possible without her!I remain a regular client and I can’t recommend Daian highly enough.
Richard BishopRichard Bishop
11:31 24 Jan 21
Daian is an extremely talented and caring professional and I cannot say enough about how helpful and effective her treatments have been. I highly recommend a visit here if you are thinking about acupuncture. The atmosphere is peaceful and calming and Daian’s highly effective skills and treatment provides welcome relief from chronic pain in a calm in a restful environment.
Emma SchorEmma Schor
19:19 21 Aug 20
It was an incredible experience and I would like to call it “magic”! I had not been able to sleep well for several months, and my whole body felt hard when I lied in bed, especially the neck and shoulders. Daian found a little lump on the back of my neck at the consultation . 30 minutes of acupuncture after, I immediately felt my neck relaxed. I did it again two days later, and the lump just disappeared! I went to sleep easily for the first time in months! Thank you, Daian! Thank you, the wonderful Chinese medical treatment!!
Sally NuttallSally Nuttall
20:37 22 Dec 19
I have been going to Daian for treatment for many years now. She is a kind and compassionate lady who is also very accomplished in Acupuncture. I have suffered with severe Vertigo for many years, having had medication, exercises etc to no avail. Having treatment with Daian has completely changed my life - I very seldom have symptoms now, thanks to acupuncture but, if it flares up, a visit to the clinic soon settles it down again. My husband has also recently started to attend her clinic to have treatment for migraines and this, also, has been very successful. I would recommend Dr Daian Zou highly.
rachel powellrachel powell
21:55 07 Dec 19
Can highly suggest acupuncture especially with this wonderful lady (Daia) she is nothing but kind, compassionate & proffesional. Acupuncture has really helped me with my healthy problem, I'm so thrilled with the results. I really look forward 2 my acupuncture every week its so relaxing & Daia is such a wonderful lady. Don't suffer call Daia (SJ Hill Clinic) up & she can help you out she is amazing....highly reccomend to anyone. Can't thank you enough Daia you deserve 100 stars x x x x

Popular Pages

What Our Patients Say

  • ~ Darrent – Shrewsbury

    "My wife and I went to see a specialist at the hospital because we have been unsuccessful in trying for a baby and we found out the problem was with me. I had a sperm count of around 3 million sperm per milliliter of semen, when 20 million or more is considered a normal count. At the same time I was receiving treatment from Daian Zou for a knee injury that meant  I could barely run properly and I mentioned that we were having difficulty trying for a baby. Not only did Daian fix my knee so I can run for miles now, she prescribed a course of acupuncture, herbs and lifestyle advice  that produced amazing results. Soon after starting treatment my sperm count went up to 5 million and now its well over the required 20 million which is enough for conception. "

  • Read more testimonials »