Martin Evans

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Sir Martin Evans
Evans in October 2007
Martin John Evans

(1941-01-01) 1 January 1941 (age 83)
Known forDiscovering embryonic stem cells, and development of the knockout mouse and gene targeting.
Judith Clare Williams MBE
(m. 1966)
Childrentwo sons, one daughter[2]
Scientific career
FieldsDevelopmental biology
ThesisStudies on the ribonucleic acid of early amphibian embryos
Doctoral studentsAllan Bradley[3][4]
Elizabeth Robertson

Sir Martin John Evans FRS FMedSci FLSW (born 1 January 1941) is an English biologist[6] 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.[7][8] 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.[9][10][11][12][13]

He won a major scholarship to Christ's College, Cambridge at a time when advances in genetics were occurring there and became interested in biology and biochemistry.[citation needed] He then went to University College London where he learned laboratory skills supervised by 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 in 2007. In 2015, he was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.[14] Today, genetically modified mice are considered vital for medical research.

Early life and education[edit]

Evans was born in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 1 January 1941.[2][7] His mother was a teacher.[10] His father maintained a mechanical workshop and taught Evans to use tools and machines including a lathe.[10] Evans was close to his grandfather who was a choir master at a Baptist Church for over 40 years, and whose main interests were music, poetry, and the Baptist Church.[10] His mother's brother was a professor of astronomy at the University of Cambridge.[10] As a boy Evans was quiet, shy and inquisitive.[12] He liked science, and his parents encouraged his education.[10] He remembers loving old science books and receiving an electric experimental set which he wanted for Christmas.[12] He attributes to a chemistry set, from which he learned basic chemistry, for the development of one of his "greatest amateur passions".[12] He went to middle school at St Dunstan's College,[10] an independent school for boys in South East London, where he started chemistry and physics classes, and studied biology.[12] He worked hard studying for the University of Cambridge entrance exams. At school he was one of the best pupils, although not at the top of the class.[10]

Evans won a major scholarship to Christ's College, 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.[12] He went to seminars by Sydney Brenner and attended lectures by Jacques Monod.[10] 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.[7][8] He decided on a career examining genetic control of vertebrate development.[15] 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".[12] He was awarded a PhD in 1969.[16][2][7][17]

Career and research[edit]

He became a lecturer in the Anatomy and Embryology department at University College London, where he did research and taught PhD students and undergraduates.[17] 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.[7] They developed the idea of using blastocysts for the isolation of embryonic stem cells.[18]

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."[12] In October 1985, he visited the Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, for one month of practical work to learn the most recent laboratory techniques.[8][19]

In the 1990s, he was a fellow at St Edmund's College, Cambridge. In 1999, he became Professor of Mammalian Genetics and Director of the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University,[7][20] where he worked until he retired at the end of 2007.[21] He became a Knight Bachelor in the 2004 New Year Honours in recognition of his work in stem cell research.[7][22] He received the accolade from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on 25 June 2004.[23] 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.[9] Evans was appointed president of Cardiff University and was inaugurated into that position on 23 November 2009.[24] Subsequently, Evans became Chancellor of Cardiff University in 2012.[25] He is an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge.[26]

Stem cell research[edit]

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.[27]

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.[27][28] This was also achieved by Gail R. Martin, independently, in the same year.[29] 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 forebears of the laboratory mice that are considered so vital to medical research today.[27] 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.[27]

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.[30] In some chimeric embryos, the genetically altered stem cells produced gametes, thus allowing transmission of the artificially induced mutation into future generations of mice.[31] In this way, transgenic mice with induced mutations in the enzyme Hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT) were created.[32] 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".[27] The production of transgenic mice using this proposed approach was accomplished in the laboratories of Oliver Smithies,[33] and of Mario Capecchi.[34]

Personal life[edit]

When Evans was a student in Cambridge he met his wife, Judith Clare Williams,[2] at a lunch held by his aunt, wife of an astronomy professor.[10] 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.[10] 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.[2][35] 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.[10] Martin's granddaughter has graduated from the University of Nottingham and is now a practicing medicine Yorkshire and Humber.

His wife Judith Clare Williams, granddaughter of Christopher Williams, was appointed MBE for her services to practice nursing in the 1993 New Year Honours.[36][37] 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.[10]

Awards and honours[edit]

Evans has won numerous awards including:


  1. ^ a b "Martin Evans EMBO profile". Heidelberg: European Molecular Biology Organization.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "EVANS, Sir Martin (John)". Who's Who. Vol. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Bradley, Allan (1985). Isolation characterization and developmental potential of murine embryo-derived stem cells (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  4. ^ "Allan Bradley - Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute". Archived from the original on 13 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Martin Evans". Desert Island Discs. 17 February 2008. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Christ College Cambridge Alumni".
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Stem cell architect is knighted BBC News : Wednesday, 31 December 2003
  8. ^ a b c Evans, Martin J. (October 2001). "The cultural mouse". Nature Medicine. 7 (10): 1081–1083. doi:10.1038/nm1001-1081. PMID 11590418. S2CID 26951331. (subscription required)
  9. ^ a b c "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007". Retrieved 8 October 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Desert Island Discs with Martin Evans". Desert Island Discs. 17 February 2008. BBC. Radio 4.
  11. ^ "Professor Sir Martin Evans Nobel Prize for Medicine". Cardiff University. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Martin Evans on Edit this at Wikidata, accessed 11 October 2020 including the Nobel Lecture Embryonic Stem Cells: The Mouse Source – Vehicle for Mammalian Genetics and Beyond
  13. ^ "A celebration of science in the UK: 10 Britons who shaped our world". The Independent. 5 July 2006.
  14. ^ Wales, The Learned Society of. "Martin Evans". The Learned Society of Wales. Retrieved 30 August 2023.
  15. ^ Evans, Martin. "Martin Evans FRS, DSc". Cardiff School of Biosciences. Archived from the original on 10 February 2001. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  16. ^ Evans, Martin John (1969). Studies on the ribonucleic acid of early amphibian embryos (PhD thesis). University College London. EThOS
  17. ^ a b "20th Nobel Prize for UCL community". University College London. 8 October 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2007.
  18. ^ Evans M, Kaufman M (1981). "Establishment in culture of pluripotent cells from mouse embryos". Nature. 292 (5819): 154–6. Bibcode:1981Natur.292..154E. doi:10.1038/292154a0. PMID 7242681. S2CID 4256553.
  19. ^ "Sir Martin J. Evans: Interview". The Nobel Foundation.
  20. ^ a b "Staff list: Sir Martin Evans FRS, DSc". School of Biosciences, Cardiff University. Archived from the original on 2 August 2009. Retrieved 1 October 2007.
  21. ^ Chan, Xuefei (7 December 2007). "Experiences of the Nobel Prize Laureates in Physiology or Medicine". People's Daily. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  22. ^ a b "No. 57155". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2003. p. 1.
  23. ^ "No. 57391". The London Gazette. 24 August 2004. p. 10694.
  24. ^ "Nobel Laureate appointed as president at Cardiff University". Cardiff University. Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  25. ^ "Who's who at Cardiff".[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "St Edmund's College - University of Cambridge". Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  27. ^ a b c d e Hansson, Göran K. "The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Advanced Information". Archived from the original on 16 October 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  28. ^ Evans M, Kaufman M (July 1981). "Establishment in culture of pluripotential cells from mouse embryos". Nature. 292 (5819): 154–6. Bibcode:1981Natur.292..154E. doi:10.1038/292154a0. PMID 7242681. S2CID 4256553.
  29. ^ 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. Bibcode:1981PNAS...78.7634M. doi:10.1073/pnas.78.12.7634. PMC 349323. PMID 6950406.
  30. ^ 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. Bibcode:1984Natur.309..255B. doi:10.1038/309255a0. PMID 6717601. S2CID 4335599.
  31. ^ 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. Bibcode:1986Natur.323..445R. doi:10.1038/323445a0. PMID 3762693. S2CID 4241422.
  32. ^ 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. Bibcode:1987Natur.326..295K. doi:10.1038/326295a0. PMID 3029599. S2CID 1657244.
  33. ^ 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. Bibcode:1989PNAS...86.8927K. doi:10.1073/pnas.86.22.8927. PMC 298403. PMID 2573070.
  34. ^ 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. doi:10.1128/mcb.12.7.2919. PMC 364504. PMID 1620105.
  35. ^ a b "2001 Albert Lasker Award - Acceptance remarks by Martin Evans". Lasker Foundation. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  36. ^ "No. 53153". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1992. p. 14.
  37. ^ "Leader of the Stem Cell Revolution Wins Nobel Prize". Medscape Today. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2007.
  38. ^ "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.
  39. ^ "Directory listing". Academy of Medical Sciences. Retrieved 9 October 2007.
  40. ^ "March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology: Previous Recipients" (PDF). March of Dimes. Retrieved 1 October 2007.
  41. ^ "2001 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research". Lasker Foundation. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  42. ^ "Albert Lasker Award". Cardiff University. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  43. ^ "Biography: Professor Sir Martin Evans FRS". Cardiff University. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  44. ^ "Summer graduation ceremonies begin today at Bath Abbey". University of Bath. 19 July 2005. Retrieved 8 October 2007.
  45. ^ "Honorary Degrees". UCL. 16 September 2008.
  46. ^ "Gold Medal for Nobel Prize winner". Cardiff University. 21 January 2009.[permanent dead link]
  47. ^ "Gold Medal of the RSM". Royal Society of Medicine. 20 January 2009. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008.
  48. ^ "Royal Society recognises excellence in science". Royal Society. 14 July 2009.
  49. ^ "Faraday Advisory Board". Faraday Institute. Archived from the original on 1 February 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2011.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of Cardiff University
(previously known as President)

Succeeded by