Ab Osterhaus

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Albert Osterhaus
Ab Osterhaus (1989).jpg
Ab Osterhaus (1989)
Born (1948-06-02) 2 June 1948 (age 68)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Residence Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands
Nationality Flag of the Netherlands.svg Dutch
Fields Virology
Institutions TiHo Hannover
Alma mater Utrecht University (MSc and PhD)
Doctoral advisor Marian Horzinek
Known for Identification of SARS coronavirus
SARS drug
Vaccine for H5N1
Notable awards M.W. Beijerinck Virology Award

Albertus Dominicus Marcellinus Erasmus "Ab "Osterhaus (born 2 June 1948) is a leading Dutch virologist and influenza expert. An Emeritus Professor of Virology at Erasmus University Rotterdam since 1993, Osterhaus is known throughout the world for his work on SARS and H5N1, the pathogen that causes avian influenza.


Osterhaus was born into a Roman Catholic family of seven and grew up in Slotermeer, Amsterdam. From 1967 onwards he studied veterinary medicine at Utrecht University and graduated cum laude in 1974. He received his PhD degree in 1978 at the same university for a dissertation entitled "Feline infectious peritonitis: identification, propagation and epidemiology".

He fulfilled several positions in his 16-year career at the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven, the last of which was head of the laboratory for Immunobiology. During that period he was also a part-time Professor of Environmental Virology at the Institute for Virology in Utrecht, a position he still holds as of 2009. In 1993 he became Professor of Virology at the Medical Faculty of Erasmus University and also head of the Department of Virology at Erasmus University Medical Centre Rotterdam. In 2013, he stepped down from his position as head of the department of Viroscience, as the Virology department is now known, and handed over the reins to Professor Marion Koopmans, formerly attached to the Dutch National Institute of Health, the RIVM. Osterhaus did not rest and set up a new institute looking at the zoonotic side of virology at TiHo in Hannover, Germany. He also holds a position at Artemis BV in Utrecht.

Osterhaus played an important role in the identification of the SARS coronavirus. In February 2004, his team found that Pegylated interferon alpha, a drug used for the treatment of patients with Hepatitis C, helps combat the virus that causes SARS.

Osterhaus holds various editorial positions for scientific journals, holds several patents, has been supervisor of more than 40 PhD students and has identified more than a dozen “new” viral pathogens[1] and he is author of more than 1000 scientific papers, including journals like Nature, Science and The Lancet.[2] Osterhaus served as member and chairman of many international scientific committees, most notably four WHO reference centres, the Dutch Influenza Centre, the Dutch Health Council and the European Scientific Working group on Influenza (ESWI).

Honours and awards[edit]

Osterhaus received several awards in his life, including the Dutch "M.W. Beijerinck Virology Award", a prize awarded triennially by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998.[3] He is also a Member of Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) since 2001.[4]

On 15 October 2003 Osterhaus was knighted Commander in the Order of the Dutch Lion.[1] Other awards Osterhaus received include the Dutch "Dr. Saal van Zwanenberg Prijs" for pharmacotherapy,[5] the "Reinier de Graaf Medaille"[6] for clinical medicine and on 13 June 2007 he was awarded the French "Grand Prix scientifique" of the Louis D. foundation in Paris. He shared the €750.000 prize money with National Institute for Medical Research Professor John J. Skehel from London.[7]


Osterhaus has been criticised for what has been described as a 'fear campaign', for exaggerating the consequences of the 2009 flu pandemic and pushing for extensive measures, even though the pandemic influenza (H1N1) is now treated as if it were a common flu. Physician and microbiologist Miquel Ekkelenkamp called Osterhaus a 'scaremonger' in an opinion piece in nrc.next and said: "'Expert' Osterhaus should be banned indefinitely from television. Everything he claimed turned out to be untrue: we're not all going to die like we did in 1918, not everyone needs a vaccination, we are not going to give Tamiflu to everyone and the virus has not mutated into something much more dangerous."[8] Osterhaus claimed he has not exaggerated the risks. During debate 'De Kwestie live' he said "I have named a wide spectrum of possibilities and minister Ab Klink decided to go for the worst-case scenario" [8][9]

In September 2009, a controversy arose when it became known Osterhaus has a 9.8% share in ViroClinics B.V, a pharmaceutical company that supposedly benefits from the 34 million vaccines Health minister Ab Klink bought based on his advice as government consultant. Osterhaus maintains he did nothing against the law and that he does not personally benefit from the order.


  1. ^ a b "Dr. Albert Osterhaus". ESWI. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  2. ^ Scholtens, Broer (2009-02-10). "De David Beckham van de virologie" (in Dutch). De Volkskrant. 
  3. ^ "M.W. Beijerinck Virologie Prijs" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  4. ^ "Ab Osterhaus" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "Dr. Saal van Zwanenberg Prijzen" (in Dutch). Saal van Zwanenberg Foundation. Archived from the original on 13 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  6. ^ "Medailles en onderscheidingen" (in Dutch). University of Amsterdam. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  7. ^ "Grand Prix scientifique voor prof.dr. Ab Osterhaus" (in Dutch). Erasmus University Rotterdam. 2007-06-04. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  8. ^ a b "'Ab Osterhaus is paniekzaaier'" (in Dutch). Erasmus Magazine. 2009-09-29. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  9. ^ "Overheid moet internet slimmer inzetten bij vaccinatie-campagne" (in Dutch). Erasmus Magazine. 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 

External links[edit]