The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Svante Pääbo for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution. Humanity has always been intrigued by its origins. Where do we come from, and how are we related to those who came before us? What makes us, Homo sapiens, different from other hominins?
UC Berkeley Professor of Integrative Biology Rasmus Nielsen and UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Integrative Biology Montgomery Slatkin both worked with Pääbo more than 10 years ago to help with analyses of the first Neanderthal genome sequenced and to show that there was interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals. Says Nielsen of Pääbo's win: "It is richly deserved that Svante was awarded the Nobel Prize. Svante is the founding father of the field of ancient DNA, a field that recently has revolutionized our understanding of evolutionary biology and human history. I could not imagine anybody more deserving than Svante. It is also of great importance for the field of evolutionary biology to be recognized with its first winner of a Nobel Prize. Evolutionary biology has a lot to contribute to our understanding of the world and the human condition, and it is therefore wonderful to see the field now recognized in this manner."
Slatkin added that Pääbo has more recently led efforts to detail what genetic changes distinguish humans from Neanderthals and Denisovans.