Lindahl was born in Kungsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden to Folke Robert Lindahl and Ethel Hulda Hultberg. He received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1967, and an Doctor of Medicine degree qualification in 1970, from the in Stockholm.
In 2015, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with American chemist Paul L. Modrich and Turkish chemist Aziz Sancar for mechanistic studies of deoxyribonucleic acid repair. After obtaining his research doctorate, Lindahl did postdoctoral research at Princeton University and Rockefeller University. He was professor of medical chemistry at the University of Gothenburg 1978-1982.
After moving to the United Kingdom he joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research United Kingdom) as a researcher in 1981.
From 1986 to 2005 he was the first Director of Cancer Research United Kingdom"s Clare Hall Laboratories in Hertfordshire, since 2015 part of the Francis Crick Institute. He continued to research there until 2009.
He has contributed to many papers on deoxyribonucleic acid repair and the genetics of cancer.
Royal Society; Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Academia Europaea.