Martin Evans

Martin Evans
Sir Martin Evans

Born 1 January 1941 (1941-01-01) (age 70)
Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
Nationality English
Fields Developmental biology
Institutions University College London
University of Cambridge
Cardiff University
Alma mater Christ's College, University of Cambridge.
University College London
Known for Discovering embryonic stem cells, and development of the knockout mouse and gene targeting.
Influences Jacques Monod
Sydney Brenner
Notable awards Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2001)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2007)

Sir Martin John Evans FRS (b. 1 January 1941, Stroud, Gloucestershire[1]) is a British scientist who, with Matthew Kaufman, was the first to culture mice embryonic stem cells and cultivate them in a laboratory in 1981. He is also known, along with Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies, for his work in the development of the knockout mouse and the related technology of gene targeting, a method of using embryonic stem cells to create specific gene modifications in mice.[1][2] In 2007, the three shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in recognition of their discovery and contribution to the efforts to develop new treatments for illnesses in humans.[3][4]

He won a major scholarship to Christ's College, University of Cambridge at a time when advances in genetics were occurring there and became interested in biology and biochemistry. He then went to University College London where he learned laboratory skills under Dr Elizabeth Deuchar. In 1978, he moved to the Department of Genetics, at the University of Cambridge, and in 1980 began his collaboration with Matthew Kaufman. They explored the method of using blastocysts for the isolation of embryonic stem cells. After Kaufman left, Evans continued his work, upgrading his laboratory skills to the newest technologies, isolated the embryonic stem cell of the early mouse embryo and established it in a cell culture. He genetically modified and implanted it into adult female mice with the intent of creating genetically modified offspring, work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Today, genetically modified mice are considered vital for medical research.


Early life

His mother was a teacher. His father maintained a mechanical workshop and taught him to use tools and machines including a lathe.[5] As a boy Evans was quiet, shy and inquisitive. He liked science, and his parents encouraged his education. He attributes to a chemistry set, from which he learned basic chemistry, the development of one of his "greatest amateur passions".[5] He remembers loving old science books and receiving an electric experimental set which he wanted for Christmas. He went to middle school at St Dunstan's College, an independent school for boys in South East London, where he started chemistry and physics classes, and studied biology.[5] At school he was a bright student.[1] He worked hard studying for the University of Cambridge entrance exams.


Evans won a major scholarship to Christ's College, University of Cambridge, at a time when there were many advances in genetics being made. He studied zoology, botany and chemistry, but soon dropped zoology and added biochemistry, finding himself drawn to plant physiology and function.[5] He went to seminars by Sydney Brenner and attended lectures by Jacques Monod.[4] He graduated from Christ's College with a BA in 1963; although, he did not take his final examinations, because he was ill with glandular fever.[1][2] He decided on a career examining genetic control of vertebrate development.[6] He moved to University College London where he had a fortunate position as a research assistant, learning laboratory skills under Dr Elizabeth Deuchar. His goal at the time was "to isolate developmentally controlled m-RNA".[5] He was awarded a PhD in 1969.[1][7] He became a lecturer in the Anatomy and Embryology department at University College London, where he did research and taught PhD students and undergraduates.[7] In 1978, he moved to the Department of Genetics, at the University of Cambridge, where his work in association with Matthew Kaufman began in 1980.[1] They developed the idea of using blastocysts for the isolation of embryonic stem cells.[8]

After Kaufman left to take up a professorship in Anatomy in Edinburgh, Evans continued his work, branching out eclectically, "drawn into a number of fascinating fields of biology and medicine."[5] In October 1985, he visited the Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, for one month of practical work to learn the most recent laboratory techniques.[2][9]

In the 1990s, he was a fellow at St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge. In 1999, he became Professor of Mammalian Genetics and Director of the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University,[1][10] where he worked until he retired at the end of 2007.[11] He became a Knight Bachelor in the 2004 New Year Honours in recognition of his work in stem cell research.[1][12] He received the accolade from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on 25 June 2004.[13] In 2007, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies for their work in discovering a method for introducing homologous recombination in mice employing embryonic stem cells.[3] Subsequently, Evans was appointed president of Cardiff University and was inaugurated into that position on 23 November 2009.[14]

Stem cell research

Evans and Kaufman isolated the embryonic stem cells from early embryos (embryoblasts) of mice and established them in cell cultures. These early embryonic cells have the potential to differentiate into any of the cells of the adult organism. They modified these stem cells genetically and placed them in the wombs of female mice so they would give birth to genetically modified offspring.[15]

In 1981, Evans and Kaufman published results for experiments in which they described how they isolated embryonic stem cells from mouse blastocysts and grew them in cell cultures.[15][16] This was also achieved by Gail R. Martin, independently, in the same year.[17] Eventually, Evans was able to isolate the embryonic stem cell of the early mouse embryo and establish it in a cell culture. He then genetically modified it and implanted it into adult female mice with the intent of creating genetically modified offspring, the forbearers of the laboratory mice that are considered so vital to medical research today.[15] The availability of these cultured stem cells eventually made possible the introduction of specific gene alterations into the germ line of mice and the creation of transgenic mice to use as experimental models for human illnesses.[15]

Evans and his collaborators showed that they could introduce a new gene into cultured embryonic stem cells and then use such genetically transformed cells to make chimeric embryos.[18] In some chimeric embryos, the genetically altered stem cells produced gametes, thus allowing transmission of the artificially induced mutation into future generations of mice.[19] In this way, transgenic mice with induced mutations in the enzyme Hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT) were created.[20] The HPRT mutations were produced by retroviral insertion; it was proposed that by taking advantage of genetic recombination between the normal HPRT gene and an artificial gene sequenced added to the cultured embryonic stem cells, "it may also eventually be possible to produce specific alterations in endogenous genes through homologous recombination with cloned copies modified in vitro".[15] The production of transgenic mice using this proposed approach was accomplished in the laboratories of Oliver Smithies,[21] and of Mario Capecchi.[22]

Personal life

When Evans was a student in Cambridge he met his wife, Judith, at a lunch held by his aunt, wife of an astronomy professor.[4] After they were engaged, their relationship did not go well and Judith went to live in Canada; however, a year later she returned to England and they married.[4] In 1978, they moved from London to Cambridge with their young children, where they lived for more than 20 years before moving to Cardiff. They have one daughter and two sons.[23] Their older son was a student at the University of Cambridge and their younger son was a boarder at Christ Church Cathedral School in Oxford and sang in Christ Church Cathedral choir.[4]

Judith Evans, granddaughter of Christopher Williams, was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to practice nursing in the 1993 New Year Honours.[24][25] She was diagnosed with breast cancer at about the time the family moved to Cardiff. She works for breast cancer charities, and Martin Evans has become a trustee of Breakthrough Breast Cancer.[4]

Awards and recognition


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Stem cell architect is knighted BBC News : Wednesday, 31 December 2003
  2. ^ a b c Evans, Martin J. (October 2001). "The cultural mouse". Nature Medicine 7 (10): 1081–1083.. doi:10.1038/nm1001-1081. PMID 11590418. Retrieved 1 October 2007.  (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b c "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007". Retrieved 8 October 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Desert Island Discs with Martin Evans". Desert Island Discs. BBC. Radio 4. 2008-02-17.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Evans, Martin J.. "Sir Martin J. Evans - Autobiography". Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Evans, Martin. "Martin Evans FRS, DSc". Cardiff School of Biosciences. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "20th Nobel Prize for UCL community". University College London. 2007-10-08. Retrieved 9 October 2007. 
  8. ^ Evans M, Kaufman M (1981). "Establishment in culture of pluripotent cells from mouse embryos". Nature 292 (5819): 154–6. doi:10.1038/292154a0. PMID 7242681. 
  9. ^ "Sir Martin J. Evans: Interview". The Nobel Foundation. 
  10. ^ a b "Staff list: Sir Martin Evans FRS, DSc". School of Biosciences, Cardiff University. Retrieved 1 October 2007. 
  11. ^ Chan, Xuefei (2007-12-07). "Experiences of the Nobel Prize Laureates in Physiology or Medicine". People's Daily. Retrieved 5 April 2008. 
  12. ^ a b London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57155. p. 1. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  13. ^ London Gazette: no. 57391. p. 10694. 24 August 2004. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  14. ^ "Nobel Laureate appointed as president at Cardiff University". Cardiff University. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Hansson, Göran K. "The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Advanced Information". Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  16. ^ Evans M, Kaufman M (July 1981). "Establishment in culture of pluripotential cells from mouse embryos". Nature 292 (5819): 154–6. doi:10.1038/292154a0. PMID 7242681. 
  17. ^ Martin G (December 1981). "Isolation of a pluripotent cell line from early mouse embryos cultured in medium conditioned by teratocarcinoma stem cells". Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 78 (12): 7634–8. doi:10.1073/pnas.78.12.7634. PMC 349323. PMID 6950406. 
  18. ^ Bradley A, Evans M, Kaufman MH, Robertson E (1984). "Formation of germ-line chimaeras from embryo-derived teratocarcinoma cell lines". Nature 309 (5965): 255–256. doi:10.1038/309255a0. PMID 6717601. 
  19. ^ Robertson E, Bradley, A., Kuehn, M., Evans, M. (1986). "Germ-line transmission of genes introduced into cultured pluripotential cells by retroviral vector". Nature 323 (6087): 445–448. doi:10.1038/323445a0. PMID 3762693. 
  20. ^ Kuehn MR, Bradley A, Robertson EJ, Evans MJ. (1987). "A potential animal model for Lesch-Nyhan syndrome through introduction of HPRT mutations into mice". Nature 326 (5819): 295–298. doi:10.1038/326295a0. PMID 3029599. 
  21. ^ Doetschman T, Gregg, R.G., Maeda, N., Hooper, M.L., Melton, D.W., Thompson, S., Smithies, O. (1989). "Germ-line transmission of a planned alteration made in a hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase gene by homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 86 (22): 8927–8931. doi:10.1073/pnas.86.22.8927. PMC 298403. PMID 2573070. 
  22. ^ Thomas KR, Deng C, Capecchi MR. (1992). "High-fidelity gene targeting in embryonic stem cells by using sequence replacement vectors". Mol Cell Biol. 12 (7): 2919–2923. PMC 364504. PMID 1620105. 
  23. ^ a b "2001 Albert Lasker Award - Acceptance remarks by Martin Evans". Lasker Foundation. Retrieved 10 May 2008. [dead link]
  24. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53153. p. 14. 30 December 1992. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  25. ^ "Leader of the Stem Cell Revolution Wins Noble Prize". Medscape Today. 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2 November 2007. 
  26. ^ "List of Fellows of the Royal Society: 1660–2007: A - J". The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2007. 
  27. ^ "Directory listing". Academy of Medical Sciences. Retrieved 9 October 2007. 
  28. ^ "March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology: Previous Recipients". March of Dimes. Retrieved 1 October 2007. 
  29. ^ "2001 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research". Lasker Foundation. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  30. ^ "Albert Lasker Award". Cardiff University. Retrieved 10 May 2008. [dead link]
  31. ^ "Biography: Professor Sir Martin Evans FRS". Cardiff University. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  32. ^ "Summer graduation ceremonies begin today at Bath Abbey". University of Bath. 2005-07-19. Retrieved 8 October 2007. 
  33. ^ "Honorary Degrees". UCL. 16 September 2008. 
  34. ^ "Gold Medal for Nobel Prize winner". Cardiff University. 21 January 2009. 
  35. ^ "Gold Medal of the RSM". Royal Society of Medicine. 20 January 2009. 
  36. ^ "Royal Society recognises excellence in science". Royal Society. 14 July 2009. 
  37. ^ "Faraday Advisory Board". Faraday Institute. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 

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