Michel Sadelain
Michel Sadelain. (Photo from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)

When Michel Sadelain began his decades-long quest to genetically modify immune cells to fight cancer, his peers dismissed his ideas as absurd and even his mother grew concerned for his career.

On Thursday, the French and Canadian scientist was announced as a winner of the prestigious Breakthrough Prize for his pioneering work in CAR T-cell therapy, a new form of treatment that has shown exceptional efficacy against blood cancers.

"Over the years, I can't tell you how many times I've heard this won't work, can't work, even if it works it has no future," the 63-year-old told AFP in an interview.

He was passed up for grants, promotions became uncertain, and graduate students steered clear of joining his lab.

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