OVIEDO, Spain – Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo, renowned for trail-blazing paleogenetics and his mapping of Neanderthal DNA, was bestowed with the Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, the foundation for the coveted Spanish prize announced Wednesday.
Born in Stockholm in 1955, Pääbo is a director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.
“Considered one of the founders of palaeogenetics, Svante Pääbo has led the project to completely sequence the genome of Neanderthals, a species that became extinct approximately 30,000 years ago,” read a statement from the Princess of Asturias Foundation.
The announcement added that by the 1980s, Pääbo demonstrated it was possible to analyze the DNA of ancient Egyptian mummies, a scientific technique that has since gone on to help further understanding of extinct creatures such as mammoths and cave bears.
He also discovered a new species of hominin called Denisovan and he later demonstrated the Denisovan DNA contributed to 5 percent of the modern genome of inhabitants of Oceania.
Similarly, it was thanks to his studies into Neanderthals that enabled scientists to establish that 2 percent of the genome of non-African Homo sapiens comes from Neanderthals, which elaborated the theory that the two species met when Homo sapiens left the African continent.