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Coffee with Marion Koopmans

Yes indeed, on June 2, 2017 our top scientist Guus Rimmelzwaan has been awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, a German prize worth 5 million euros.

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, named after the famous German naturalist and explorer is awarded by the German foundation bearing the same name and funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research. It is the biggest prize that is awarded in Germany for scientific research. With the prize the Germans hope to attract top international scientific talent to their universities.

I am incredibly proud that one of my staff has received this honour. This prize is the German equivalent of the Dutch Spinoza Prize but the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards twice as much money with the prize. This is an enormous sign of recognition! Guus has been able to develop into an absolute top scientist at Erasmus MC. Of course I find it a shame that Guus is leaving but I know that our department of Viroscience will maintain good contact with him. Influenza research remains an important spearhead at Erasmus MC and in the future we will certainly collaborate intensively.

However, I also see his departure as a warning: We must ensure that the diminishing budgets available in the Netherlands for fundamental, curiosity-driven scientific research do not result in too many top scientists from the university medical centres being enticed to work elsewhere with large foreign grants. Therefore I think it is extremely important for all of us to cooperate within the NCOH!

And we heard you received an impressive recognition yourself? An Honorary Doctorate?

You heard correctly: on 28 April I received an Honorary Doctorate from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), together with Professor Klaus Petermann from the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin). In collaboration with my colleague Professor Frank Aarestrup from DTU, I co-coordinate the EU COMPARE project, a multidisciplinary research network set up to swiftly track down outbreaks of deceases among humans and animals. In order to do this, we use very innovative technology to characterise the genes of the pathogenic agents and analyse bioinformatics (big data).

The Department of Viroscience of the Erasmus MC is involved in research on chicken markets in China. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Yes, of course. I’ve been Scientific Advisor at the Centre of Disease Control (CDC) of the province Guangdong in Southeast China since 2007. This province is known for its live animal markets. Reina Sikkema, a graduated veterinarian with a passion for One Health and MERS-CoV and Influenza outbreaks, travelled to China from December 2015 – January 2016, while pregnant, to research the spread of avian flu via these live animal markets. She ultimately selected 12 markets for her research. These markets do not only sell poultry, but also rabbits, dogs, goats and sometimes even fruits and vegetables. The purpose of her research is to map out the entire ‘virus chain’: where does the virus come from, from what region, how did it spread, through which farmers, or through what wholesale or local chicken market? Together with the CDC, Reina researches the entire market chain: 1) How does the chain/market for living poultry in Guangdong work and 2) how does influenza spread through this chain? Reina is currently doing her PhD degree in this subject!

Invitation! Save the Date

I would like to invite all of you already for the 7th European Congress of Virology of the European Society of Virology. This meeting will take place in Rotterdam, De Doelen, from April 28 – May 1 2019 and is organized by Prof. Ben Berkhout from the AMC, and myself.