Scientist Svante Paabo won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries “concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution”, the award-giving body said on Monday.
The prize, arguably among the most prestigious in the scientific world, is awarded by the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($900,357).
It is the first of this year’s batch of prizes.
Created in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and wealthy businessman Alfred Nobel, the prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace have been awarded since 1901, though the economics prize is a later addition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed medical research centre stage with many expecting that the development of the vaccines that have allowed the world to regain some sense of normality may eventually be rewarded.
Still, it typically takes many years for any given research to be honoured, with the committees charged with picking the winners looking to determine its full value with some certainty amongst what is always a packed field of contenders.
This year’s festivities should in any case mark the return of the Nobel banquet in Stockholm after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, an event redolent of old-world pomp and glamour after years of social distancing.
Last year’s medicine prize went to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for the discovery of receptors in the human skin that sense temperature and touch, converting the physical impact into nerve impulses.
Past winners in the field include a string of famous researchers, notably Alexander Fleming, who shared the 1945 prize for the discovery of penicillin, and Robert Koch, who won already in 1905 for his investigations of tuberculosis.