The Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology 2022 to Svante

The Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology 2022 to Svante Pääbo

by Laura Cuppini

The 67-year-old Swedish biologist was recognized for his discoveries on the genome of extinct hominids and on evolution. The jury: Your findings have created the basis for researching what makes us humans so unique

Swedish biologist Svante Pbo, 67, will receive the 2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine. The announcement was made on Monday, October 3, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The win, as explained at the awards ceremony, was tied to his discoveries related to the genomes of extinct hominids and human evolution. By uncovering the genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominids, his findings provided the basis for exploring what makes us humans so unique, the jury emphasized.

Pbo has achieved the seemingly impossible: sequencing the genome of Neanderthal man, an extinct relative of modern man, according to the press release justifying the award. He also found gene transfer from these now-extinct hominids to Homo sapiens after migrating from Africa about 70,000 years ago. This ancient flow of genes to modern-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example by influencing how our immune system responds to infections. Pbo’s research has spawned an entirely new scientific discipline; Paleogenomics (the study of the genetic material from the remains of ancient organisms, ed.). As he looked into the life code of our most distant ancestors, he finally told people where we came from. Not only. The scientist, who is also the author of a sensational revelation, explains the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm: He discovered a previously unknown hominid, Denisova.

Born in Stockholm on April 20, 1955, Pbo studied at the University of Uppsala and later moved first to the University of Zurich, then to the American University of Berkeley and later to the German University of Munich. In 1999 he founded the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, which he currently directs. He is also a lecturer in Japan at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). It is part of prestigious academies such as the Royal Society, the United States National Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina and the National Academy of the Lincei. Numerous international awards, including the Max Delbrück Medal, the Theodor Bucher Medal, the Louis Jeantet Prize (Geneva) and the Japan Prize (Tokyo).

Svante Pbo examined the DNA of Egyptian mummies and Ötzi, the prehistoric man found in a glacier in Tyrol in 1991. In 2006 he announced that he planned to reconstruct the entire Neanderthal genetic heritage. The following year, Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2010, Paabo and his colleagues published an experimental sequence of the Neanderthal genome in the journal Science, which the biologist and his team used to suggest a relationship between Neanderthals and Eurasians.

Reconstructing ancient genomes has been a fascinating adventure that has allowed us to reconstruct human history and relationships with our extinct brethren, the Neanderthals and the Denisovans. A well-deserved Nobel Prize for a great scientist, whom we welcome as a foreign partner – underline the President of the Accademia dei Lincei, Roberto Antonelli, and the Vice-President Giorgio Parisi. Pbo pioneered a genetic approach to paleoanthropology by extracting and analyzing DNA from fossil remains. Overcoming incredible technical difficulties, he coordinated a series of studies that allow us to understand human evolution much more fully today, and created a real revolution in the field.

The Neanderthal genomic DNA sequence he analyzed – Antonelli and Parisi continue – revealed that our Sapiens ancestors were interbred with Neanderthals, whose DNA is now present in the genomes of populations all over the world, with the exception of some areas of Africa. More recently, DNA was isolated from a small fragment of bone found in a cave in the Altai Mountains (a mountain system stretching about 2,000 km in Asia, from the Gobi desert to the lowlands of western Siberia, through China, Mongolia and Russia and Kazakhstan, eds.) revealed the existence of a previously unknown human variety, the Denisovans, who were also crossbred with Homo sapiens

Last night’s predictions focused on the researchers who brought forward the discoveries on mRNA technology that has been instrumental in developing the most effective vaccines against Covid-19 – vaccines that have saved millions of lives around the world since the pandemic began .

Last year, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the prize for their discoveries on temperature and touch receptors.

The Nobel Prize in Physics will be announced on Tuesday October 4th; Wednesday, October 5 for chemistry; Thursday October 6th, the one for literature; Friday October 7th, the one for peace; on October 10th, next Monday, the one for the economy.

The Nobel Prize consists of a cash prize of 10 million Swedish kronor – around 900,000 euros – to be awarded on 10 December.

Article is updated…

October 3, 2022 (change October 3, 2022 | 12:34)