The renowned cancer researcher and Nobel laureate in medicine Harald zur Hausen died on Sunday at the age of 87, the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg announced Monday evening. Zur Hausen led the DKFZ in Heidelberg for 20 years.
With him we lose an outstanding scientist who has made pioneering achievements in the field of tumor virology,” said Michael Baumann, President and Scientific Director of the DKFZ.
Spiritual father of the HPV vaccine
The internationally renowned virologist was seen as the creator of a widely used vaccine against cervical cancer and other tumours, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008. “It’s no exaggeration to say that Harald zur Hausen has opened up a whole new dimension in cancer prevention,” says Baumann. Recently, the scientist had researched a possible link between milk and beef consumption and the development of breast and colon cancer.
Zur Hausen was born on March 11, 1936 in Gelsenkirchen. He studied medicine in Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf. In the early 1980s, he provided evidence that certain sexually transmitted skin wart viruses – the so-called human papillomaviruses (HPV) – can cause cervical cancer.
In doing so, he created the conditions for the development of a vaccine that has been approved for the European market since 2006. Initially, there was great skepticism among colleagues, as zur Hausen once said.
zur Hausen did research into old age
In 1983 zur Hausen was appointed head of the DKFZ. Even after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008, his main interest has been the role of viral infections in the development of cancer. He came to the DKFZ at an advanced age and conducted research into pathogens that can be associated with the development of breast and colon cancer.
Over the course of his research career, zur Hausen has been honored with an impressive number of academic awards. He received nearly 40 honorary degrees and numerous honorary degrees. The pinnacle of his scientific career came in 2008 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. In 2009 zur Hausen received the large Federal Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2017, the city of Heidelberg made him an honorary citizen.
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