Martin Evans: Biography, Contributions, Awards And Recognitions

Martin Evans (Stroud, England 1941) is a researcher, geneticist, biochemist and university professor of British origin. He was the winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 2007 alongside his two fellow scientists, Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies. 
He is considered the ‘architect of stem cell research’ for his work in the field of genetic manipulation of animals.

With their contributions, it has been possible to replicate some 500 models of human diseases in mice, such as cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis or many others in the cardiovascular field. 
This model has made it possible to study in the laboratory the application of possible treatments and therapies that may later be successful in humans.

Sir Martin John Evans, British scientist Source: Cardiff University [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by

Article index

  • one

    Biography

    • 1.1

      Early years

    • 1.2

      Academic years

    • 1.3

      Years of research

  • two

    Contributions to science

  • 3

    Awards and honours

  • 4

    References 

Biography

Early years

On January 1, 1941, Martin John Evans was born in the town of Stroud, county of Gloucestershire, England. His mother was a teacher and his father maintained a mechanical workshop. 
It was he who taught him to handle tools and trained him to operate the metallurgy lathe. He was a child very close to his grandfather who was a choirmaster in a Baptist church.

From an early age he had an interest in science and especially in chemistry. He remembers the old science books that he loved so much, and the chemistry set that made him cultivate his main hobby from an early age.

He was noted for being a good high school student at St. Dunstan’s College in south-east London. Although not one of the most prominent, he was the winner of a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge.

Academic years

He began his studies in zoology, biochemistry and biology at the University of Cambridge, but on the way he abandoned zoology because he did not feel identified with it.

He obtained his BA in 1963 and his MA three years later, in 1966. In 1969 he had already completed, at University College London, his two doctorates: one in Science and the other in Physiology with a specialty in Anatomy and Embryology.

In 1978 he joined teaching, first at the University of London as a professor of anatomy and embryology, then of genetics at the University of Cambridge and since 1999 at the University of Cardiff.

In that institution he directed the school of Biosciences and in 2009 he held the presidency. He subsequently became chancellor of the university between 2012 and 2017, the year in which he retired.

Years of research

The period that he was teaching at Cambridge was very significant for Evans’ life, since there he met Judith Clare Williams, who would be his wife months later and mother of their three children.

It was also the meeting place with Matt Kaufman, from whom he learned to use the technique of isolation through delayed blasts, which would allow him to separate and differentiate embryonic stem cells in 1981.

This discovery would be an essential contribution to homologous recombination, the process envisioned by Professors Capecchi and Smithies, who believed that mammalian cells could be modified.

However, they had not succeeded because of the type of cells they were focused on. It was thanks to the work of Evans that the ideal cells were detected to carry out genetic modifications and that could then be transmitted to the next generations.

In 2001, their work earned Evans and his colleagues the Lasker Prize for Medical Research, also known as the ‘American Nobel’.

In 2004 he became Sir Martin Evans, upon receiving the title of Knight from Queen Elizabeth II, for his services to medical science. Finally, in 2007 he was recognized with the Nobel Prize.

Contributions to science

Mouse embryonic stem cells. Source: National Science Foundation employee [Public domain]

Evans and his colleague, Matthew Kaufman, discovered so-called embryonic stem cells by isolating them from healthy mice. These scientists were able to determine that, also called ES cells, could be used to introduce mutations into the mouse genome.

The artificial modification of DNA in these rodents laid the scientific foundations around individual genes and their role in certain diseases, a great contribution in the field of genetic selection.

This discovery paved the way for the so-called ‘knockout mice’, a technology that he developed together with Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah and Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina, and that earned them the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in the year 2007.

These 3 scientists never met in the same laboratory but, from their respective countries, they obtained pioneering advances of great significance in genetics. Today, this technology is used in practically all areas of biomedicine, from the most basic studies to the most innovative therapies.

They are genetically modified mice, which usually have a certain gene ‘deactivated’ to model some human disease. Because of the great similarity between the human and mouse genomes, treatments for “patterned” human disorders can be tested in these rodents.

Thanks to their research, the first demonstration of gene therapy to combat cystic fibrosis was carried out in their laboratories, as well as a key step in understanding the genetic background of breast cancer.

Awards and honours

With more than 140 scientific essays to date, Sir Evans has received more than 10 accolades from the scientific community and international awards. Among the awards are:

– Member of the Royal Society (1993).

– Founder Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1998).

– March of Dimes Annual Award in Developmental Biology (1999).

– Lasker Award, together with Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies (2001).

– Doctor Honoris Causa from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA (2002).

– Knight of the Order of the British Empire (2004).

– Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Bath, England (2005).

– Nobel Prize in Medicine, together with Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies (2007).

– Honorary Doctorate from University College London, England (2008).

– Gold medal from the Royal Society of Medicine (2009).

– Copley Medal of the Royal Society (2009).

– Member of the Advisory Board of the Faraday Institute (2009).

– UCL Master Lecture in Clinical Sciences (2009).

References

 

  1. “Evans, Sir Martin John.”  The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Recovered from Encyclopedia.com
  2. Tikkanen, M. & Encyclopædia Britannica (2019, January 01) Sir Martin J. Evans . Recovered from britannica.com
  3. (2007, October 8). The ‘parents’ of the laboratory mouse.  El Mundo . Recovered from elmundo.es
  4. Nobel Prize. (2007). The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007. Recovered from nobelprize.org
  5. Dr. Sir Martin J. Evans. (sf) Recovered from mediatheque.lindau-nobel.org
  6. Cardiff University. (sf). Sir Martin Evans, Nobel Prize in Medicine. Recovered from ac.uk
  7. Martin Evans. (2019, March 6).  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia . Recovered from es.wikipedia.org

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