Svante Pääbo (born 20 April 1955) is a Swedish biologist specializing in evolutionary genetics. One of the founders of paleogenetics, he has worked extensively on the Neanderthal genome.Born in Stockholm, Pääbo is the son of Estonian chemist Karin Pääbo and biochemist Sune Bergström. Growing up with his mother, he barely knew his father, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Bengt I. Samuelsson and John R. Vane in 1982.He earned his PhD from Uppsala University in 1986. Since 1997, he has been director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.Pääbo is known as one of the founders of paleogenetics, a discipline that uses the methods of genetics to study early humans and other ancient populations. In 1997, Pääbo and colleagues reported their successful sequencing of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), originating from a specimen found in Feldhofer grotto in the Neander valley.In August 2002, Pääbo's department published findings about the "language gene", FOXP2, which is lacking or damaged in some individuals with language disabilities.In 2006, Pääbo announced a plan to reconstruct the entire genome of Neanderthals. In 2007, he was named one of TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people of the year.In February 2009, at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), it was announced that the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology had completed the first draft version of the Neanderthal genome. Over 3 billion base pairs were sequenced in collaboration with the 454 Life Sciences Corporation. This project, led by Pääbo, will shed new light on the recent evolutionary history of modern humans.In March 2010, Pääbo and his coworkers published a report about the DNA analysis of a finger bone found in the Denisova Cave in Siberia; the results suggest that the bone belonged to an extinct member of the genus Homo that had not yet been recognized, the Denisova hominin.In May 2010, Pääbo and his colleagues published a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome in the journal Science. He and his team also concluded that there was probably interbreeding between Neanderthals and Eurasian (but not African) humans. There is growing support in the scientific community for this theory of admixture between archaic and anatomically-modern humans, though some archaeologists remain skeptical about this conclusion.In 2014, he published the book Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes where he in the mixed form of a memoir and popular science tells the story of the research effort to map the Neanderthal genome combined with thought on human evolution.
Awards and recognitions:
In 1992, he received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, which is the highest honour awarded in German research. Pääbo was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2000. In October 2009 the Foundation For the Future announced that Pääbo had been awarded the 2009 Kistler Prize for his work isolating and sequencing ancient DNA, beginning in 1984 with a 2,400-year-old mummy. In June 2010 the Federation of European Biochemical Societies awarded him the Theodor Bücher Medal for outstanding achievements in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In 2013, he received Gruber Prize in Genetics for ground breaking research in evolutionary genetics.
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