Three share Nobel for mouse gene discoveries

The Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded to Americans Mario R Capecchi and Oliver Smithies, and Briton Sir Martin J Evans, it has been announced.

The trio are being given the award in recognition of “their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells,” according to the citation. They will share prize money of ten million kronor.

The trio’s discoveries led to the development of gene targeting in mice. This technology is now being used in almost all areas of biomedicine, from basic research to the development of new therapies, according to the Nobel Foundation. Being able to target specific genes in mice enables scientists to establish the roles of those genes in health and disease.

The announcement was made on Monday morning at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute.

Mario R Capecchi was born in Verona, Italy in 1937, and later became an American citizen. He took his doctorate in biophysics at Harvard in 1967. He is now professor in human genetics and biology at the University of Utah.

Sir Martin J Evans was born in 1941 in Britain. He took his doctorate in anatomy and embryology at University College London in 1969. He is now professor of mammalian genetics at the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University.

Oliver Smithies, the oldest of the three prizewinners, was born in Britain in 1925, later becoming an American citizen. He took his doctorate in biochemistry at Oxford University in 1951. He is now professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of North Carolina.

The prizewinners are chosen by the 50-member Nobel Assembly, elected from among professors at the Karolinska Institute.

The announcement of the prizes was hampered on Monday by technical problems, with the Nobel Foundation’s website crashing shortly before the names of the prizewinners were made public. The Nobel Foundation said network problems were to blame.