Svante Pääbo, director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, is one of the founders of paleogenetics and became best known for his pioneering research on the Neandertal genome. His interest in molecular biology, molecular genetics and Egyptology were the reason for his efforts to clone nuclear DNA from an Egyptian mummy as early as 1985, which established him in the field of evolutionary genetics at a very young age. In 2009, he and his team had completed the first draft of the Neandertal genome, opening up a whole new field of research into the history of modern humans.
The NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Award 2017 supports Pääbo in his quest to learn more about the genetic differences and functional consequences that occurred at the split between the modern human and their archaic human ancestors about half a million years ago. Findings will represent a crucial first step toward understanding the genetic underpinnings of the human condition and thus provide an additional inroad to study diseases and other conditions that affect traits that are unique to humans.
NOMIS interviewed Pääbo about what makes a productive research environment, how pushing scientific boundaries might reflect certain personality traits and what influence his research might have beyond the borders of his own scientific fields. Read the full interview.
Svante Pääbo earned his PhD from Uppsala University in 1986. He did his postdoctoral research at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California at Berkeley, United States, and became professor of general biology at the University of Munich, Germany, in 1990. In 1997 he was appointed director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.