Published: 29-02-2012 00:00 | Updated: 18-02-2014 15:00

New honorary doctors at Karolinska Institutet 2012

Karolinska Institutet's board of research has appointed three new honorary doctors, who will have their doctorates formally conferred at a ceremony in the Stockholm City Hall on 25 May, when they will receive their hat, diploma and ring from the Dean of Research as testimony to their status. Every year, Karolinska Institutet awards honorary doctorates to people who have made vital contributions to the university.

Svante Pääbo, honorary doctor of medicine (MDhc)

Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for evolutionary anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, is to be made honorary doctor of medicine. Professor Pääbo created the area of molecular palaeontology, and in doing so wrote an entirely new chapter in the science of molecular biology. He has developed new methods for extracting genetic information from ancient tissue, such as bone, skin and teeth, and one of his greatest scientific achievements is the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome from 40,000-year old skeletons. By comparing the DNA from the Neanderthal and modern humans from different continents, his team has shown that up to four per cent of the human DNA in Europe and Asia derives from the Neanderthal. They have also isolated and sequenced DNA from bones in Siberia and shown that they come from a hitherto unknown group of extinct hominids, who were related to the Neanderthals and who contributed up to five per cent of the DNA of people from Melanesia. Professor Pääbo adds continuously to the academic development of the multi-institute Science for Life Laboratory and thus to Karolinska Institutet's own academic growth.

Yoshihide Hayashizaki, honorary doctor of medicine (MDhc)

Yoshihide Hayashizaki, head of RIKEN Omics Science Center in Yokohama, Japan, and member of the Science for Life Laboratory's scientific advisory council and former foreign adjunct professor at Karolinska Institutet, is to be made honorary doctor of medicine. Professor Hayashizaki is an internationally renowned researcher who has made important contributions to science's understanding of how genes are expressed from the genome. One of his more significant findings is that much of the genome is copied to the RNA. He has also identified new classes of non-coding RNA and a large number of promoters and gene sequences, the transcription of which start in the human genome. His foremost contribution to science is as head of FANTOM, a joint international project that has been analysing gene expression in mice and humans. Professor Hayashizaki invited researchers from Karolinska Institutet at an early phase of these projects, starting a collaboration that continues to this day as FANTOM5.

Thorbjörn Ekström, honorary doctor of odontology (ODhc)

Thorbjörn Ekström, the former long-standing RE&D director at the Stockholm County Council, is to be made honorary doctor of odontology. Mr Ekström has played a key part in the collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and the Stockholm County Council, and has displayed particular aptitude as a network builder and negotiator. Mr Ekström has demonstrated a profound understanding of the importance of science and education to healthcare, and has done a great deal to strengthen Karolinska Institutet's position in research, education and development in dental care. He has held a number of important posts in the Stockholm County Council, including as the director of Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge. In his work, Mr Ekström has focused on the south KI campus, where the Department of Odontology is located. He has also made an active and fruitful contribution to the council's efforts to ensure that the clinical component of the dentistry programme maintains the highest quality.