Swedish geneticist Professor Svante Pääbo has won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries that underpin our understanding of how modern day humans evolved from extinct ancestors. Pääbo, director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, won the prize for "discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution," the Award committee said. “His discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human.”
Born in Stockholm, Svante Pääbo studied medicine and biochemistry at Uppsala University before creating the scientific discipline paleogenomics, which has shed light on the genetic differences that distinguish living humans from extinct hominins. His ancient forensics work also has implications for modern medicine, for example by showing why some people are at higher risk of severe COVID. In 2020 he and colleagues published a paper showing that a genetic variant inherited by modern humans from Neanderthals when they interbred made those who carried it more likely to require artificial ventilation if infected.
His Nobel comes two years after another ESHG prizewinner, Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier, shared the 2020 Chemistry award with Professor Jennifer Doudna for the invention of the gene-editing technology CRISPR/Cas9. Prof Charpentier gave the ESHG Mendel Lecture at the Society’s annual conference in 2018.
ESHG President, Professor Borut Peterlin, said: “Svante has not only made a huge contribution to human genetics, but also opened up an entirely new field. I am sure that all our members join with me in sending him hearty congratulations.”