Svante Paabo receives Nobel 40 years after his father

Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo won the 2022 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner)

Forty years after his father received the same award, a Swedish scientist who revealed that Neanderthals and humans interbred won the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology.

Svante Paabo is one of the inventors of paleogenetics; he pioneered several technical and analytical approaches to extract additional information from fossilized bones, and he was the first to reconstruct the whole Neanderthal genome.

The geneticist determined that humans and Neanderthals interbred and that contemporary human still carry Neanderthal DNA.

The Stockholm-based Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 67-year-old academic 10 million Swedish kronor (€924,000) as a prize.

In 1982, Prof. Paabo's father, Sune Bergstrom, got the same award.

It indicates that Prof. Paabo is the ninth individual whose parent was also a Nobel laureate.

Prof. Paabo stated in a phone call to the Nobel committee, "I believe that my mother, with whom I grew up, was the most influential person in my life.

"My father and I had some contact, and he was very interested in my work, but we were not as close as with my mother."

His parents did not marry, and Professor Bergstrom had a second family.

Prof. Paabo stated that his bond with his father taught him that even Nobel laureates are "normal humans."

Prof. Paabo revealed the first Neanderthal genome sequence from multiple bone samples in 2010 and discovered that humans and Neanderthals shared a common ancestor who lived approximately 800,000 years ago.

His studies led to the stunning discovery that Europeans and Asians possess approximately 2 percent Neanderthal DNA.

Prof. Thomas Perlmann, secretary general of the Nobel Assembly, stated that he phoned Prof. Paabo to inform him of his recognition.

Prof. Paabo stated that he was "overwhelmed" and "very happy."

Prof. Paabo believed the call from Sweden was related to his summer home in Sweden.

Prof. Paabo stated in an audio recording uploaded on the Nobel website, "I was just gulping down my last cup of tea before picking up my daughter from her nanny, where she had spent the night."

"Then I received a phone call from Sweden, and I assumed it had something to do with our Swedish summer home.

"I believed the lawn mower had malfunctioned or something."

When asked if he believed he would earn the award, he responded, "No, I have received a few awards before, but I did not believe that this would merit a Nobel Prize."

Prof. Paabo, who was born in Stockholm and educated at Uppsala University in medicine and biochemistry, founded the field of paleogenomics, which shed light on the genetic distinctions that distinguish modern humans from extinct hominins.

Publish : 2022-10-04 09:49:00

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