This year's Nobel Prize for Molecular Biology has been controversially awarded to Prof Robert Edwards for his pioneering work on in-vitro fertilisation. Prof. Edwards' work in developing "test tube babies" has helped the conception and birth of 4 million people around the world, starting with first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. Whilst it is acknowledged that this work was ground-breaking and of major significance, there has been wide-spread criticism that the prize has been awarded for work in medicine and physiology, rather than in molecular biology, for which the prize was originally intended.
"I'm shocked" said Prof. Philip Mickelson of the North Oregon Teaching Hospital Institute of Nuclear Genetics, "the Nobel committee has finally stretched the meaning of the prize beyond breaking point".
Dr. Andrew McDowell of the British Organisation for Molecular Biology agreed, stating "this is ludicrous. What's the point in going into molecular biology if some physiologist is going to nick your big prize?"
Environmentalists were also critical of the prize, pointing out that it was being awarded for work that had increased our over-population problems. Greenpeas and Friends of the Planet both released statements condemning the Karolinska Institute as "irresponsble", and "encouraging behaviour that will speed up the destruction of this planet and all we hold dear". Pope Benedict, in contrast, praised the award, stating in a press release that "this prize can only encourage those who chose to have children to conceive and birth as many as their family can support".
A statement released to the press by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm acknowledged the controversy, stating "the committee felt that, despite its name, the prize had been too narrowly focussed on molecular advances and some recognition should be made of research in other areas of biology". The spokesman pointed out that the prize has been awarded to research outside its immediate scope of molecular, most noticeably in 1973 when it was awarded for work in animal behaviour.
There is concern that this will mark a trend in this year's prizes. Dr. Edward Molinari of the European Institute of Biochemistry admitted he was worried about Wednesday's award. "Just looking at the bookies' odds, it's clear that everyone is panicked. It's looking more likely that this year's Nobel Prize for Biochemistry will be awarded to someone who doesn't even work on living organisms. Heaven forbid, but they might even be an inorganic chemist".
Odds on President George W. Bush winning the Peace Prize have not shortened, however.