Svante Pbo, PhD, director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, is the recipient of the 2013 Genetics Prize of The Gruber Foundation. Pbo is being honored with this prestigious international award for his pioneering research in the field of evolutionary genetics. He is considered the founder of molecular paleontology, the application of genetics to the study of prehistoric life.
The award will be presented to Pbo on April 16 at the International Congress of Genetics conference in Singapore, where he will also deliver a lecture entitled "Archaic Genomics."
"Svante Pbo's work shows basic science at its best. He was driven by an obvious passion to use DNA technology to unlock the past. He overcame seemingly insupperable technical obstacles. And he opened new vistas on a question we all care about, 'Where do we come from?' This is a wonderful award," said Maynard Olson, a member of the selection advisory board and 2007 laureate of the Gruber Genetics Prize.
Pbo, 57, started experimenting with extracting DNA from ancient human remains in the early 1980s while completing his PhD program in molecular immunology at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, his native country. His first major findingthe demonstration that DNA was preserved in a 2,400-year-old mummy of an infant boywas published as the cover story in Nature in 1985. In the ensuing two-and-a-half decadesat the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Munich and, since 1997, at the Max Planck Institute Pbo has played a leading role in developing the technology that has made it possible to isolate and sequence ancient DNA.
In 1997, Pbo announced the successful sequencing of mitochondrial Neandertal DNAa watershed in evolutionary genetics. In addition to proving that the DNA could be successfully extracted and sequenced from a 40,000-year-old fossil, the sequencing showed that Neandertals
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