Swedish paleogeneticist Svante Paabo has been awarded the Nobel Medicine Prize for the year 2022. Paabo was given the honour for sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal and discovering the previously unknown hominin Denisova.
“By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human,” the Nobel committee said.
Paabo is the director of the department of genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He discovered that gene transfer had occurred from these now extinct hominins to Homo sapiens following the migration out of Africa around 70,000 years ago.
“This ancient flow of genes to present-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example affecting how our immune system reacts to infections”, the jury said.
In a 2020 study, Paabo had reported that COVID-19 patients with a snippet of Neanderthal DNA run a higher risk of severe complications from the disease.
The honour carries a monetary reward of 10 million Swedish kronor ($901,500). Paabo, 67, will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.
US pair of David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian had won the prize last year for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch, which have been used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including chronic pain.
The Nobel Physics Prize will be announced on Tuesday and the Chemistry Prize on Wednesday. They will be followed by the much-anticipated prizes for Literature on Thursday and Peace on Friday, while the Economics Prize winds things up on Monday, October 10.
(With inputs from agencies)