Swedish evolutionary geneticist, Svante Pääbo, now at Max Planck Institute in Germany, was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine today. His early work in reassembling Neanderthal ancient DNA from tiny bone fragments, and then identifying those pieces of DNA in contemporary humans revolutionized the entire field of genomics.
I wrote about his discovery, at the time, in the article Decoding and Rethinking Neanderthals.
You can hear an interview here about how he received the call.
Pääbo is a second-generation Nobel Laureate. His father shared a Nobel prize in 1982, Svante says his father wasn’t a big influence in his life, but his mother was.
If you have roots outside Africa, you carry some Neanderthal DNA, and the DNA Svante discovered is in your own genes.
Svante wrote an inspirational book about his life and paleogenetic discoveries that I enjoyed immensely. Never let anyone tell you that something can’t be done! Thank goodness he followed his passion, regardless of people thinking it was “a joke.” If you’re interested, you can order the e-book here and read it right away.
In his honor, Nature has compiled a collection of his publications, here.
I was extremely pleased to see this award conferred in the field of genetics. All of the ancient DNA that is recovered from archaeological dig sites and processed to unveil history, or compare against our own DNA relies on his monumental discoveries. In essence, Dr. Pääbo founded a new field that contributes to historical, genealogical, and medical genetic information.
Svante gave humanity the gift that keeps on giving. By way of example, here’s a recent paper about the contribution of Neanderthal introgression into modern human traits that is founded upon his paradigm-shifting techniques.
Thank you, and congratulations Dr. Svante Pääbo!!!
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