Neandertal paper wins big

Leah Eisenstadt, February 22nd, 2011 | Filed under
  • Skull of our fellow hominin, the Neandertal
    Image courtesy of Luna04, Wikimedia Commons

In May 2010, a team of scientists including several Broad researchers announced they had completed a draft of the genome sequence of the Neandertal, our closest evolutionary cousin. The study, appearing in the journal Science, was big news among genomic scientists and anthropologists. The findings suggested that the Neandertal genome is more similar to present-day Eurasian humans than to those in sub-Saharan Africa — the first evidence of genetic overlap between Neandertals and modern humans.

This past Saturday, the research team accepted an award acknowledging the scientific impact of the paper: the 2010 Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Presented at the AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C., and supported by Affymetrix, the prize recognizes the author or authors of an outstanding paper published in the Research Articles or Reports sections of the journal Science between June and the following May.

The prize, which includes a $25,000 award, was presented to study leaders David Reich, an associate member of the Broad and associate professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, and Richard E. Green and Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and their colleagues. The authors plan to use the money to fund a meeting on how to continue to do research on Neandertal DNA.

"The draft Neandertal genome sequence marks an incredible step forward in our perceptions of our closest hominid cousins," Science Editor-in-Chief Bruce Alberts said in a statement. "This remarkable paper is a fundamental intellectual contribution as well as a stunning technical achievement and it will continue to be referenced and studied for years to come."

Other Broad researchers who contributed to this work include Nick Patterson, Heng Li, Chad Nusbaum, Eric Lander, Carsten Russ, and Nathaniel Novod.