By Sheryll Poe
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Swedish geneticist Svante Pääbo, in recognition of his work using genetic analysis on ancient DNA to uncover a direct descendant of two different groups of early humans.
“The work of Svante Pääbo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) in Leipzig, Germany, led to the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome and the discovery of a new group of hominins called the Denisovans, and also spawned the fiercely competitive field of palaeogenomics,” according to Nature.
“Pääbo pioneered the now-booming field of ancient DNA research. He was the first to successfully retrieve and sequence bits of ancient DNA from a Neanderthal in 1997,” Science noted. “His research has offered insights into the genetic evolution of modern humans, including a better understanding of disease risks.”
It’s unusual for a single scientist to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine—it’s usually awarded to teams.