Artemis One Health

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Professional profile Ab Osterhaus

Professor Dr. A.D.M.E. (Ab) Osterhaus started his career in Utrecht (The Netherlands) where he graduated with distinction at the faculty of veterinary sciences. In 1978, he received his PhD degree with Prof. Dr. M.C. Horzinek. He then moved to the RIVM in Bilthoven, where he would stay until 1994. Since then, he has been working at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam as Head of the Department of Virology. He is also a professor of Wildlife virology and virus discovery at the University of Utrecht.

Thirty years of experience in animal and human virology have resulted in a specific interest in viruses that ordinarily affect only animals but that can cross the species barrier. Now a leading authority, able to identify dangerous and elusive new viruses with speed and precision. Osterhaus’ team reacted with exceptional speed to the SARS outbreak of 2003 and proved that a newly identified coronavirus was the cause of SARS. This allowed health authorities to effectively diagnose and isolate suspected cases, which made it possible to effectively stop an emerging pandemic. In 1997, Osterhaus’ team silenced sceptics when they proved that Avian Influenza (H5N1) could be transmitted to humans. Based on the discovery Osterhaus’ team has enabled health authorities to prepare for potential outbreaks, and, as an individual, has campaigned determinedly for awareness, calling for a global taskforce to prepare for and combat viruses such as H5N1. Throughout his professional career, Osterhaus and his team have identified around twenty ‘new’ viruses (such as the human metapneumovirus, (hMPV), and a novel human coronavirus, (HcoV-NL) as well as countless new possible hosts for already known viruses. His research includes studies on virus reservoirs in wildlife, mechanisms of transmission and pathogenesis of viruses. In addition, innovative fundamental research on the natural and vaccine-induced immune response and on antiviral drugs is performed to combat the threat posed by (zoonotic) virus infections. As part of his active interest in public health, he has acted as PhD mentor for ~50 students; (co-)authored over 900 academic articles, created biotech companies and held several editorial positions.