Svante Pääbo wins the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Evolutionary genetics expert helped explain what makes us unique
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The 2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the Swedish Svante Pääbo “for his discoveries about the genomes of extinct hominids and human evolution”.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Swedish scientist Svante Pääbo for his discoveries about human evolution. Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Committee, announced the winner on Monday at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

“By revealing the genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominids, their findings provide the basis for exploring what makes us humans unique,” the Nobel Committee said.

The paleogeneticist discovered that a genetic transfer took place between these now extinct hominins and Homo Sapiens. This ancient flow of genes for today’s humans has a physiological impact, for example by affecting how our immune system reacts to infections.

Father had already won Nobel

His father, biochemist Sune Karl Bergström, was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1982.

The now-awarded genetics expert has focused his research on the genome of Neanderthals. His main achievements as a researcher include sequencing the entire Neanderthal genome to reveal the link between extinct people and modern humans.

He also brought to light the existence of a previously unknown human species called Denisovans, from a 40,000-year-old fragment of a finger bone discovered in Siberia.

Pääbo also led investigations that compared the genomes of modern humans and our closest extinct relatives, the Neanderthals, and Denisovans, showing that there was a mixture between the species.

The Swedish biologist is the director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

The prize, arguably one of the most prestigious in the scientific world, is worth SEK 10 million (approximately €900,000).

In 2021, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were distinguished for their investigation of temperature and touch sensory receptors in the human body.

The 2022 season for the announcement of the Nobel prizes began this Monday, with the one for Medicine, and ends on October 7th with the one for Peace, a much-awaited category this year, in time of war in Europe.
In between, the prizes for Physics (October 04), Chemistry (October 05), and Literature (September 06) will be awarded and, on October 10, the winner of the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish central bank) prize in Economic Sciences will be announced. , in memory of Alfred Nobel, the patron of the awards, according to the respective website.

All categories will be announced in Stockholm, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which, as usual, will be awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee and will take place at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, in Oslo, next Friday, October 7th.

According to the organization of the awards, this year there are 343 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize, 251 of which are individuals and 92 organizations – a number higher than the 329 candidates last year and the second highest ever, belonging to the record to the 376 candidates nominated in 2016.

Under the regulations, a Nobel Peace Prize nomination can be submitted by anyone who meets the criteria to do so, and a formal invitation letter is not required to submit a nomination.

In addition, as in the other categories, the identities of the nominee and the nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize can only be disclosed 50 years after the nomination, as well as investigations and opinions related to the award of a prize.

According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, a nomination is considered valid if it is presented by a person belonging to categories such as members of national assemblies and national governments of sovereign states, as well as acting heads of state.

Members of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, both based in The Hague, the Netherlands, as well as members of the Institute of International Law, a private Belgian organization dedicated to the study and development of International Law, may also submit nominations. members of the international board of the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom.

“University professors, professors emeritus and associate professors of History, Social Sciences, Law, Philosophy, Theology and Religion, deans and directors of universities (or their equivalents), directors of research institutes on peace and international politics” and “ people who have received the Nobel Peace Prize” are other potential candidates, according to the regulation.

Finally, it also stipulates that “members of boards of directors or their equivalents of organizations that have been distinguished” with the award will also be able to nominate candidates, as well as current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and their former advisers.

It is then up to the Norwegian Nobel Committee – made up of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegian parliament) – to select, in various stages, the candidacies received in Oslo until midnight on 31 January, with nominations sent and received after this date will be considered in the following year.

200 nominations

In recent years, the Committee has received close to 200 nominations for various candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. The number of letters containing nominations is much higher than the number of candidates, as many are for the same.

Between February and March, a list of finalists is drawn up, after the Committee analyzes the candidates’ work, and between March and August, the councilors analyze this short list.

This year, one of the international protagonists most pointed out as a potential winner of the award was the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country has been invaded and has been at war with Russia since February 24th. Given that the deadline for submitting candidacies ends on January 31, Zelensky cannot be a candidate this year, despite having waged a war for more than seven months in defense of the territorial integrity of his country and its civilian population, which has made him a leading figure icon in terms of defending the peace.

Pope Francis, British natural history documentary filmmaker David Attenborough, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Belarusian dissident Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya will be among the nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Also among the candidates for the award nominated by the international media are environmentalist Greta Thunberg, the Government of National Unity of Myanmar, formed by opponents of the coup that took place last year, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe.

In addition to these, another potential candidate is the non-profit organization Campaign for Uyghurs, founded and directed by Rushan Abbas, a Uighur activist who accuses the authorities of the People’s Republic of China of genocide, who since 2017 have captured and taken millions from members of the Uighur Muslim minority, who inhabit the Chinese region of Xinjiang, to concentration camps in the desert, where they are tortured to death because Beijing wants the country to have a unique national identity.

In October, the Norwegian Nobel Committee chooses the Nobel Peace Prize winner(s) in a majority vote, the decision being final and not subject to appeal. The names of the Nobel Peace Laureates are then announced. Finally, in December, those distinguished in the various categories receive the award.

Ceremony in Oslo

The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony takes place on December 10th in Oslo, Norway, where the laureates receive the award, which consists of a medal and a diploma, together with a document confirming the monetary amount of the award, which year is SEK 10 million (approximately €919,000 at current exchange rates) to be divided by the various categories.

In Norway, between 1901 and 1914, the decision on the Peace Prize was announced at a meeting of parliament on 10 December, after which the honorees were informed in writing.

Between 1905 and 1946, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies took place in the building of the Nobel Institute, between 1947 and 1989, in the auditorium of the University of Oslo and, since 1990, in the City Hall of Oslo. The King of Norway is present, but it is the chairman of the Nobel Committee that presents the prize to the laureates.

Since 1901, 102 Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded to 137 laureates, including 18 women, the youngest being Pakistani women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai, aged 17.

Source: With Agencies

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