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Svante Pääbo, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, is to receive the Japan Prize, worth 50 million yen (about 490,000 euros), for his scientific work. An honorary professor at Leipzig University, Pääbo is regarded as the founder of palaeogenetics, a research discipline concerned with the analysis of genetic samples from fossils and prehistoric finds.

Prof. Dr. Svante Pääbo.

Professor Svante Pääbo. Photo: PLoS, Wikimedia, Creative Commons CC BY 3.0

By comparing the DNA sequences of modern-day humans, Neanderthals and other human ancestors, Pääbo studies which of the genetic changes that occurred in the course of evolutionary history make up modern humans. Pääbo’s major scientific achievements include the determination of the first DNA sequences from a Neanderthal. You can read more about his work and the award ceremony in the Max Planck Society’s press release.