Nobel Prize 2022: Swede Svante Pääbo receives the medicine prize

The Nobel Prize medal, on December 9, 2021 in Oslo (Norway). (©AFP/Archives/Odd ANDERSEN)

Breast cancer treatments? Messenger RNA vaccines? Progress in disease detection? The 2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine has finally been awarded to Svante Paabo this Monday, October 3, 2022 around 11:30 a.m.

The Swede was rewarded for his work on the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome and the foundation of paleogenomics.

After medicine on Monday, physics will follow on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday, then the two most anticipated prizes: literature on Thursday and peace on Friday, the only prize announced in Oslo. The economy price, of more recent creation, will close the 2022 vintage next Monday.

Mary-Claire King, yet favorite

Born in the optimism of the Belle Epoque over 120 years agothe Nobel Prize winners once again find themselves confronted with the telescoping between the celebration of “benefactors of humanity” and a year particularly heavy in tragedies.

For medicine, the name of a woman came up regularly this year among prediction experts: that of the American geneticist Mary-Claire King. She is the discoverer in 1990 of a gene responsible for breast cancerthe most common malignancy in women.

HAS 76 years oldshe could have been crowned with other pioneers of a therapeutic antibody against breast cancer, her compatriot Dennis Slamon and the German Axel Ullrich, at the origin of the trastuzumab treatment.

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The winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine 2017-2021.
The winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine 2017-2021. (©AFP/)

Katalin Kariko also has a chance

If the Nobel jury breaks with its cautious tendency to crown old discoveries, another woman had her chances this year to its role against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Already crowned for two years with almost all the other major medical awards, the American-Hungarian Katalin Kariko, long a marginalized researcher, would have obtained the Graal for her pioneering role in messenger RNA vaccines.

“There is not only the direct benefit that this has brought us in the face of the pandemic, but it is also the first of a series of very promising applications of this technology”, underlined Ulrika Björksten, head of the scientific service at Swedish public radio.

In the event of a prize for vaccines, she could have been crowned with her American sidekick Drew Weissman and the Canadian Pieter Cullis.

A rather medical price this year?

Last year, the prize went to two Americans, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, for their discoveries on how touch works. A price related to physiology which suggests a more medical price this year, according to David Pendlebury.

David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2021, in Irvine (United States) on December 8, 2021.
David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2021, in Irvine (United States) on December 8, 2021. (©GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/Archives/Rodin Eckenroth)

This head of the Clarivate organization maintains a closely followed list of several dozen Nobel Prize winners for scientific prizes. Him puts a piece on Ms King and Mr Slamon this year, but also quotes Hong Konger Yuk Ming Dennis Lo.

This pioneer has developed a non-invasive prenatal diagnosis, making it possible to limit the use of more cumbersome amniosynthesis.

With this technique then emerged a series of so-called “liquid” biopsies. “With a simple blood or blood plasma test, you can detect all kinds of possible problems or illnesses,” Pendleblury points out.

male dominance

US or US-based male researchers dominate still largely Nobel scientists in recent decades, despite the efforts of juries to crown more women.

The 2021 Nobel vintage was no exception to the rule, with 12 winners and only one winner. All the scientific prizes had gone to men. And this 2022 edition which opens is no exception to the rule.

The 2021 Nobel Prize winners.
The 2021 Nobel Prize winners. (©AFP/Gal ROMA)

Michel Houellebecq nominated for literature

For literature on Thursday, critics interviewed by AFP lean towards a better known nameafter two winners emerged from the shadows, the American poet Louise Glück in 2020 and the British novelist of Tanzanian origin Abdulrazak Gurnah last year.

The American Joyce Carol Oates, the French Annie Ernaux or Maryse Condé, the Russian Ludmila Oulitskaïa or the Canadian Margaret Atwood have taken care of the parity efforts of the jury in recent years.

On the betting sites, the Frenchman Michel Houellebecq is currently the favorite. He is ahead of Salman Rushdie, victim of an attempted murder in August.

An anti-Putin Nobel?

But it’s the price of peace which should again have the most impact this year. After having already co-consecrated the Russian journalist Dmitri Mouratov – with his Filipino colleague Maria Ressa – will the Norwegian committee award an anti-Putin prize after the invasion of Ukraine?

Ever since World War II, an interstate conflict had ever taken place so close to Oslo.

The International Criminal Court, responsible for investigating war crimes in Ukraine, as well as the International Court of Justice, also based in the Netherlands, are mentioned. Just like the imprisoned Russian opponent Alexei Navalny or the Belarusian opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa.

In case of price centered on the climate and environmentexperts cite Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, possibly jointly with British naturalist David Attenborough or other activists like Sudanese Nisreen Elsaim and Ghanaian Chibeze Ezekiel.

Source: © 2022 AFP

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