Svante Pääbo

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Svante Pääbo
Svante Pääbo in 2014
Born (1955-04-20) 20 April 1955 (age 61)
Stockholm, Sweden
Nationality Sweden
Fields Genetics
Evolutionary Anthropology
Institutions Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Alma mater Uppsala University
Known for Paleogenetics
Notable awards Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (1992)
Member of the Order of
the Pour le Mérite, civil class (2008)
Kistler Prize (2009)
Great Cross of Merit with star (2009)
Gruber Prize in Genetics (2013)
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2016)

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.


Pääbo was born in Stockholm and grew up with his mother, Estonian chemist Karin Pääbo.[1] He barely knew his father, biochemist Sune Bergström, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Bengt I. Samuelsson and John R. Vane in 1982.[2]

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.[3][4][5][6][7]


Svante Pääbo in 2008

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.[8]

In August 2002, Pääbo's department published findings about the "language gene", FOXP2,[9] 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.[10]

In February 2009, at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago, it was announced that the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology had completed the first draft version of the Neanderthal genome.[11] 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.[citation needed]

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.[12]

In May 2010, Pääbo and his colleagues published a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome in the journal Science.[13] He and his team also concluded that there was probably interbreeding between Neanderthals and Eurasian (but not Sub-Saharan African) humans.[14] There is growing support in the scientific community for this theory of admixture between archaic and anatomically-modern humans,[15] though some archaeologists remain skeptical about this conclusion.[16][needs update][better source needed]

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.[2][17]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

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.[18] In June 2010 the Federation of European Biochemical Societies awarded him the Theodor Bücher Medal for outstanding achievements in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.[19] In 2013, he received Gruber Prize in Genetics for ground breaking research in evolutionary genetics.[20] In June 2015 he was awarded the degree of DSc (honoris causa) at NUI Galway.[21] He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 2016.[22]


  1. ^ Kolbert, Elizabeth, Sleeping with the Enemy, The New Yorker. 15 August 2011
  2. ^ a b Peter Forbes (20 February 2014) Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by Svante Pääbo – review
  3. ^ Gitschier, J. (2008). "Imagine: An Interview with Svante Pääbo". PLoS Genetics. 4 (3): e1000035. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000035. PMC 2274957Freely accessible. PMID 18369454. 
  4. ^ Zagorski, N. (2006). "Profile of Svante Paabo". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103 (37): 13575–13577. doi:10.1073/pnas.0606596103. PMC 1564240Freely accessible. PMID 16954182. 
  5. ^ Dickman, S. (1998). "Svante Pääbo: Pushing ancient DNA to the limit". Current Biology. 8 (10): R329–R330. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(98)70212-X. PMID 9601629. 
  6. ^ Shute, N. (2003). "Portrait: Svante Paabo. The human factor". U.S. News & world report. 134 (2): 62–63. PMID 12561700. 
  7. ^ "Svante Paabo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology". Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  8. ^ Krings, M; Stone, A; Schmitz, Rw; Krainitzki, H; Stoneking, M; Pääbo, S (July 1997). "Neandertal DNA sequences and the origin of modern humans". Cell. 90 (1): 19–30. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80310-4. ISSN 0092-8674. PMID 9230299. 
  9. ^ Enard, W.; Przeworski, M.; Fisher, S. E.; Lai, C. S. L.; Wiebe, V.; Kitano, T.; Monaco, A. P.; Pääbo, S. (2002). "Molecular evolution of FOXP2, a gene involved in speech and language". Nature. 418 (6900): 869–872. doi:10.1038/nature01025. PMID 12192408. 
  10. ^ Venter, J. C. (2007). "Time 100 scientists & thinkers. Svante Paabo". Time. 169 (20): 116. PMID 17536326. 
  11. ^ Callaway, Ewen (12 February 2009) First draft of Neanderthal genome is unveiled New Scientist, Life, Retrieved 13 February 2015
  12. ^ Krause, J.; Fu, Q.; Good, J. M.; Viola, B.; Shunkov, M. V.; Derevianko, A. P.; Pääbo, S. (2010). "The complete mitochondrial DNA genome of an unknown hominin from southern Siberia". Nature. 464 (7290): 894–897. doi:10.1038/nature08976. PMID 20336068. 
  13. ^ Green, R. E.; Krause, J.; Briggs, A. W.; Maricic, T.; Stenzel, U.; Kircher, M.; Patterson, N.; Li, H.; Zhai, W.; Fritz, M. H. Y.; Hansen, N. F.; Durand, E. Y.; Malaspinas, A. S.; Jensen, J. D.; Marques-Bonet, T.; Alkan, C.; Prüfer, K.; Meyer, M.; Burbano, H. A.; Good, J. M.; Schultz, R.; Aximu-Petri, A.; Butthof, A.; Höber, B.; Höffner, B.; Siegemund, M.; Weihmann, A.; Nusbaum, C.; Lander, E. S.; Russ, C. (2010). "A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome". Science. 328 (5979): 710–722. doi:10.1126/science.1188021. PMID 20448178. .
  14. ^ Rincon, Paul (6 May 2010). "Neanderthal genes 'survive in us'". BBC. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Lalueza-Fox C & Gilbert MTP (2011). Paleogenomics of Archaic Hominins. Current Biology, 21 (24): R1002-R1009.
  16. ^ Wade, Nicholas (7 May 2010). "Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  17. ^ Simon Underdown (3 April 2014) Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes, by Svante Pääbo Times Higher Education. Retrieved 1 July 2014
  18. ^ "Foundation For the Future has selected Dr. Svante Pääbo as the 2009 winner of the Kistler Prize.". Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  19. ^ "FEBS MEDALS: The Theodor Bücher Lecture and Medal". Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  20. ^ "Gruber Genetics Prize for Svante Pääbo". MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  22. ^ "Svante Paabo Biography". Royal Society. Retrieved 1 May 2016.