Svante Pääbo has been granted the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific and Research for having developed precise methods to study ancient DNA that have permitted the recovery and analysis of the genome of species that disappeared hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Pääbo, recipient of the NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Award and director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute, is one of the founders of paleogenetics and became best known for his pioneering research on the Neandertal genome. His work has enabled a better understanding of the recent evolution of numerous species, including humans. By sequencing of the Neanderthal genome, he discovered that genes from these and other extinct humans form part of the genetic pool of humanity. According to the Princess of Asturias Foundation jury,
“His discoveries force us to rewrite the history of our species.”
The Princess of Asturias Foundation convenes the Princess of Asturias Awards, which are presented at an academic ceremony held each year in Oviedo, capital of the Principality of Asturias. The Foundation’s aims are to contribute to extolling and promoting those scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of the universal heritage of humanity and to consolidate the existing links between the Principality of Asturias and the title traditionally held by the heirs to the Crown of Spain.