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Public release date: 5-Feb-2009

Neandertal genome researcher to speak at the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting

Dr. Svante Pbo is director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

5 February 2009 The worlds largest general scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today confirmed that evolutionary geneticist Dr. Svante Pbo will provide an update during the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting and a simultaneous press event in Leipzig, Germany, regarding his efforts to sequence the Neandertal genome.

Pbo, director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, will describe the current status of his research efforts, along with colleagues at 454 Life Sciences Corporation of Branford, Connecticut.

Details regarding Pbos specific research progress to date will remain strictly embargoed until 9:00 a.m. CST, or 16:00 CET Thursday, 12 February. Reporters are cautioned to refrain from seizing upon speculative reports regarding the status of his research efforts. Complete and accurate details will be available to reporters at the Leipzig event, via a live video-teleconference at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago, and over the Internet.

In addition to his press briefing, Pbo will serve as a plenary lecturer at the 175th AAAS Annual Meeting. His plenary presentation is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CST Sunday, 15 February, in Chicagos Fairmont Hotel, Imperial Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public, but all attendees must register first to obtain a badge. For registration, the public can go to the adjacent Hyatt Regency Chicago, Gold Level, East Tower, Grand Ballroom Lobby.

A biologist specializing in evolutionary genetics, Pbo is widely described as one of the founders of paleogenetics a discipline that uses the methods of genetics to study early humans and other ancient populations. He is conducting some of the most exacting work ever attempted on the DNA of human and nonhuman primates. His track record of discoveries began in 1985 when he isolated DNA from a 2,400-year-old Egyptian mummy.

Neandertals were the closest relatives of currently living humans. They lived in Europe and parts of Asia until they became extinct about 30,000 years ago. For more than a hundred years, paleontologists and anthropologists have been striving to uncover their evolutionary relationship to modern humans, who emerged roughly 400,000 years ago.

"Getting the genome of our closest living relative is a critical research goal because it will allow us to make key genomic comparisons," said Brooks Hanson, deputy managing editor for the physical sciences at the journal Science, published by AAAS. "Being able to look at some of the recent evolution of humans by comparing Neandertal DNA with modern humans as well as other species will shed light on both our own origins and the process of evolution."

Pbo, a pioneer in the field of ancient DNA research, made the first contribution to the understanding of our genetic relationship to Neandertals when he sequenced Neandertal mitochondrial DNA in 1997.



Reporters who wish to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting event can register on-site in Chicago. Please go to the Hyatt Regency Chicago, West Tower, Acapulco Room. Please bring media credentials and photo identification to obtain a free press pass. AAAS media contacts are Earl Lane or Molly McElroy, (202) 326-6440, or; or Ginger Pinholster, (202) 326-6421,, before 12 February. After 12 February, call (312) 239-4811 to reach the AAAS Annual Meeting Newsroom in Chicago. Embargoed news will be available to reporters via the AAAS virtual newsroom online at EurekAlert!, Non-reporters can find general information about the AAAS Annual Meeting online at


Pbos news briefing will begin at 9:00 a.m. CST/16:00 CET 12 February. Reporters will be able to log onto a special Internet site to prepare for the live video-streaming teleconference beginning one hour prior to the event at 15:00 CET at Questions can be submitted via email to both before and during the conference. AAAS will provide an alternate Internet address soon to support additional media demand. Reporters, please note that the live streaming Internet event is intended to serve media needs. The video will be archived online and accessible to the general public immediately after the press briefing. For information concerning the press event in Leipzig, Germany, contact Sandra Jacob, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, phone: ++49 (0) 341 3550-122; fax: ++49 (0) 341 3550-119,