A Swedish scientist who used DNA sequencing to find the link between extinct people and modern humans has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
Svante Paabo was given what is arguably the most prestigious prize in the scientific world for discoveries “concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution”.
He received the news “while enjoying a cup of coffee” and was said to be “overwhelmed” – and asked whether he could share the news with his wife.
Mr Paabo is the son of the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sune Bergstrom.
He has been credited with transforming the study of human origins after developing approaches to allow for the examination of DNA sequences from archaeological and palaeontological remains.
His key achievements include sequencing an entire Neanderthal genome to reveal the link between extinct people and modern humans.
He also brought to light the existence of a previously unknown human species called the Denisovans, from a 40,000-year-old fragment of a finger bone discovered in Siberia.
Thomas Perlmann, secretary for the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, explained Mr Paabo’s reaction to winning the prize: “He was overwhelmed, he was speechless. Very happy.
“He asked if he could tell anyone and asked if he could tell his wife and I said that was okay.
“He was incredibly thrilled about this award.”
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The prize is awarded by the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and is worth 10 million Swedish crowns (£804,000).
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed medical research centre stage with many expecting the work involved in developing the vaccines to be formally recognised.
When asked why the prize was not awarded to advances in fighting COVID, Mr Perlmann only said: “We only talk about people who are getting the Nobel Prize and not those who are not receiving or not received them yet.”