Monday, 3. October 2022 - 20:13

OIST Professor Svante Pääbo wins 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

October 3 – Okinawa, Japan – The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) is proud to announce that Svante Pääbo, an Adjunct Professor at OIST and Director of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution".

The annual honor was announced by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.

Over the course of his esteemed career, Professor Pääbo made several groundbreaking advances in human evolution and genomics, eventually birthing the new scientific discipline of paleogenetics.

He was the first researcher to successfully decode DNA sequences and later the full genome of Neanderthals, an extinct species of human that used to live among ancestors of our own species, Homo sapiens.  He also identified a previously unknown extinct hominin – the Denisovans – from DNA retrieved from an ancient finger bone that was found in a Siberian cave in 2008, providing substantial insight into human history.

In more recent years, he made the seminal discovery that Neanderthal and Denisovan genes could be found in certain human populations today, due to interbreeding between our ancestors and these now extinct humans around 70,000 years ago. These genetic contributions to modern humans still have important ramifications today, for example, impacting how we respond to infections such as COVID-19.

Here at OIST, Professor Pääbo, who leads the Human Evolutionary Genomics Unit, is focused on using genomic data to compare modern humans to ancient Neanderthals and Denisovans. He is identifying genetic differences and exploring the function of genes that are only found in modern humans. Ultimately, his research will attempt to answer one of the most fundamental questions for humanity – what is it that makes modern humans unique?

Professor Svante Pääbo answers a question from the audience after giving a OIST Lunchtime Faculty Seminar talk on April 20, 2022. He received the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

OIST President and CEO, Dr. Peter Gruss said, “All of OIST congratulates Svante Pääbo for being awarded the well-deserved Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Svante is one of the founders of paleogenetics and has made seminal discoveries sequencing the genome of ancient Neanderthal and Denisovans. I am very happy that he now wishes to compare the differences between Neanderthal and Homo sapiens genomes here at OIST. This will reveal important insights into what makes us human.”

The past articles on Prof. Svante Pääbo and his research

By Dani Ellenby

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