Newswise — David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, has been named co-recipient of the 2017 Dan David Prize in archaeology and natural sciences.

Citing Reich as “the world’s leading pioneer in analyzing ancient human DNA,” the prize committee recognized him for his discovery that Neanderthals and humans interbred, “which was a step-change in human evolution studies.”

Reich shares the $1 million prize with longtime collaborator Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, who is credited with founding the field of genomic archaeology.

“It’s an amazing honor,” said Reich. “I feel humbled to receive this prize when so many others have contributed to the field, and I hope it’s seen as a coming of age for ancient DNA, which has been a revolutionary technology for investigating the past.”

“Like many others in our community and around the world, I have followed with fascination the contributions David and his colleagues have made to our understanding of the human story, past and present,” said George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School. “His mastery of cutting-edge genomic technologies and rigorous data analysis have led to unparalleled scientific discoveries that enrich what we can learn from archaeology, linguistics and other wide-ranging fields.”

By coaxing ever more genetic secrets from ancient bones, Reich helps piece together histories of human migration and population mixing across tens of thousands of years. In the last few years alone, he and his collaborators have pushed the science of ancient-DNA analysis to learn about Neanderthals and the genes they passed to humans, identify ancestors of present-day Europeans, trace migrations into the Americas, reveal the imprint of the dawn of agriculture on human genomes and probe the roots of Indo-European languages.

“I feel particularly humbled to be linked with Svante Pääbo, who is a demigod, really, in this area,” added Reich, who is also a senior associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “It’s an honor to have had the chance to work with him and to carry forward that torch. It’s wonderful to have that collaboration recognized.”

The Dan David Prize is a joint international corporation endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University. Three prizes of $1 million each are granted annually in fields chosen for three time dimensions: past, present and future. The prizes are granted to individuals or institutions with proven, exceptional, distinct excellence in the sciences, arts, humanities, public service and business who have made and continue to make an outstanding contribution to humanity.

Harvard Medical SchoolHarvard Medical School ( has more than 11,000 faculty working in 10 academic departments located at the School’s Boston campus or in hospital-based clinical departments at 15 Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Hebrew SeniorLife, Joslin Diabetes Center, Judge Baker Children’s Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and VA Boston Healthcare System.