On Monday, Swedish researcher Svante Paabo won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his pioneering research in human evolution by sequencing the genome of Neanderthal DNA and discovering the previously unknown hominin Denisova.
Paabo’s discovery helps us understand what makes humans unique and provides an important insight into our immune system. In a study published in 2020, the researcher and his team reported that Covid patients with certain gene variants inherited from Neanderthals are at greater risk of serious illness than those who did not.
According to a recording posted on Nobel’s website, he thought the call from Sweden informing him of his Nobel Prize win was an elaborate joke by colleagues or about his summer house in Sweden. “So I just gulped down the last cup of tea to go pick up my daughter from her nanny where she’s staying,” he said in the interview, describing his day.
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He added, “And then I got this call from Sweden and of course I thought it had something to do with our little summer house…I thought the lawnmower had broken or something.” He was then asked if he thought he would get the prize, he said: “No, I’ve got a couple of prizes before but somehow I didn’t think this would really qualify for a Nobel Prize.”
Notably, Paabo’s father, Sune Bergström, also won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1982, making this the eighth time that a son or daughter of a Nobel laureate has also won the prize. His father was also “greatly interested” in his work, but it was his mother who was the “biggest influence” in his life and with whom he grew up, he said during the interview.
In his book, “Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes,” he called himself Bergström’s “secret illegitimate son,” something he also reportedly touched on during the interview.
(With input from agencies)
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