BY: Michelle Liew
Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, for his discoveries in the field of human evolution.
The Nobel Assembly in Sweden honored Paabo "for his discoveries about the extinct hominin genome and human evolution".
Paabo, born in 1955, is an expert in the field of evolutionary genetics. He was one of the founders of paleogenetics who extensively studied the Neanderthal genome.
"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 Nobel committee said.
It is the first Nobel Prize awarded this year. More announcements will be made throughout the week.
Prof Paabo only heard the news this morning when he was called by Thomas Perlmann, the secretary for the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine.
"He was overwhelmed, he was speechless. Very happy," said Prof Perlmann.
Prof Paabo is said to be one of the pioneers of the scientific discipline of paleogenomics. He won a prize of 10m Swedish kronor (£800,000). He has followed in the footsteps of his father, Sune Bergstrom, who won the same Nobel Prize in 1982.
His work shows there were already two distinct groups of hominins (Neanderthals and Denisovans) living in Eurasia when Homo sapiens spread from Africa.
Analysis suggests these now extinct populations were small and relatively inbred and may not have been able to compete with rapidly expanding modern humans.