Sweden's Svante Paabo wins 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, announces the winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on Oct. 3, 2022.  (Xinhua/Ren Pengfei)

Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries "concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution," the Nobel committee announced on Monday.

"Through his pioneering research, Svante Paabo accomplished something seemingly impossible: sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans," the committee said in a statement. "He also made the sensational discovery of a previously unknown hominin, Denisova."

The scientist found 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 statement added.

Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, announced the winner at the Karolinska Institute. He said he called the laureate with the news, and Paabo "sounded overwhelmed, speechless, and very happy."

Paabo's seminal research gave rise to an entirely new scientific discipline: paleogenomics. 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 statement said.

"The genetic differences between Homo sapiens and our closest extinct relatives were unknown until they were identified through Paabo's seminal work." the statement said, "Intense ongoing research focuses on analyzing the functional implications of these differences with the ultimate goal of explaining what makes us uniquely human."

Paabo, born in 1955 in Stockholm, Sweden, had his Ph.D. degree in 1986 at Uppsala University, Sweden. He founded the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in 1999 in Leipzig, Germany, where he is still active.

The prize amount is 10 million Swedish kronor (about 900,000 U.S. dollars).

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