Harald zur Hausen

Harald zur Hausen (German: [ˈhaʁalt tsuːɐ̯ ˈhaʊzn̩]; born 11 March 1936) is a German virologist and professor emeritus. He has done research on cancer of the cervix, where he discovered the role of papilloma viruses, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008.

Harald zur Hausen
Harald zur Hausen 03
Harald zur Hausen in 2010
Born11 March 1936 (age 83)
Known forDiscovery that HPV can cause cervical cancer
AwardsErnst Jung Prize (1996)
Prince Mahidol Award (2005)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2008)
Scientific career
InstitutionsGerman Cancer Research Center University of Heidelberg

Early life and education

Zur Hausen was born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, went to the Gymnasium in Vechta, and studied medicine at the Universities of Bonn, Hamburg and Düsseldorf and received a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1960 from the University of Düsseldorf, after which he became a medical assistant.


Two years later, he joined the Institute for Microbiology at the University of Düsseldorf as a laboratory assistant. After three and a half years, he moved to Philadelphia and worked at the Virus Laboratories of the Children's Hospital together with the famous husband and wife virologists, Werner and Gertrude Henle,[1] who had to escape from Nazi Germany. In a ground-breaking study, he contributed to finding for the first time that a cancer virus (Epstein-Barr virus) can transform healthy cells (lymphocytes) into cancer cells.[2] This directly showed that viruses can cause cancer cell formation. He became an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1969, he became a regular teaching and researching professor at the University of Würzburg, where he worked at the Institute for Virology. In 1972, he moved to the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. In 1977, he moved on to the University of Freiburg (Breisgau), where he headed the department of virology and hygiene. Working with Lutz Gissmann, zur Hausen first isolated human papillomavirus 6 by simple centrifugation from genital warts. Together with Ethel-Michele de Villiers, who would marry zur Hausen after his divorce from his first wife, this group isolated HPV 6 DNA from genital warts, suggesting a possible new way of identifying viruses in human tumors. This paid off several years later in 1983 when zur Hausen identified HPV 16 DNA in cervical cancer tumors by Southern blot hybridization.[3] This was followed by discovery of HPV18 a year later,[4] thus identifying the culprits responsible for ~75% of human cervical cancer. This sparked a major scientific controversy with other scientists favoring herpes simplex as a cause for cervical cancer.

From 1983 until 2003, zur Hausen served as a chairman and member of the scientific advisory board of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ in German) in Heidelberg and professor of medicine at the Heidelberg University.[5] He also is editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Cancer. He is author of the book Infections Causing Human Cancer from 2006.

On 1 January 2010, zur Hausen became the president of the German Cancer Aid, the leading organization fighting cancer in Europe. It was founded by doctor Mildred Scheel, the late “First Lady” of Germany. Zur Hausen has three sons from his first wife.

Scientific merits

Zur Hausen's specific field of research is the study of oncoviruses. In 1976, he published the hypothesis that human papillomavirus plays an important role in the cause of cervical cancer. Together with his collaborators, he then identified HPV16 and HPV18 in cervical cancers in 1983-4. This research directly made possible the development of a vaccine which was introduced in 2006. See also HPV vaccine. He is also credited with discovery of the virus causing genital warts (HPV 6) and a monkey lymphotropic polyomavirus that is a close relative to a recently discovered human Merkel cell polyomavirus, as well as techniques to immortalize cells with Epstein-Barr virus and to induce replication of the virus using phorbol esters. His work on papillomaviruses and cervical cancer received a great deal of scientific criticism on initial unveiling but subsequently was confirmed and extended to other high-risk papillomaviruses.

He received the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 2008 for his contributions to medical science.[6] He also shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who discovered the human immunodeficiency virus.[7]

There was controversy over the 2008 Nobel when it was learned that Bo Angelin, a member of the Nobel Assembly that year, also sat on the board of AstraZeneca, a company which earns patent royalties for HPV vaccines.[8] This was exacerbated by the fact that AstraZeneca had also entered into a partnership with Nobel Web and Nobel Media to sponsor documentaries and lectures to increase awareness of the prize.[8] However, colleagues widely felt that the award was deserved,[9] and the secretary of the Nobel Committee and Assembly made a statement that at the time of the vote, Bo Angelin did not know of AstraZeneca's HPV vaccine patents.[8]


  • Infections Causing Human Cancer (2006) (Print ISBN 978-3-527-31056-2; Online ISBN 978-3-527-60931-4)
  • Cornwall, Claudia M. Catching cancer : the quest for its viral and bacterial causes. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013.



  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-04. Retrieved 2016-05-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Henle, Werner (1967-09-01). "Herpes-Type Virus and Chromosome Marker in Normal Leukocytes after Growth with Irradiated Burkitt Cells | Science" (PDF). Science. 157: 1064–1065. doi:10.1126/science.157.3792.1064. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  3. ^ M Dürst; L Gissmann; H Ikenberg; H zur Hausen (1983-06-01). "A papillomavirus DNA from a cervical carcinoma and its prevalence in cancer biopsy samples from different geographic regions". PNAS. 80: 3812. doi:10.1073/pnas.80.12.3812. PMC 394142. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  4. ^ Boshart, M; Gissmann, L; Ikenberg, H; Kleinheinz, A; Scheurlen, W; Hausen, H (1984). "A new type of papillomavirus DNA, its presence in genital cancer biopsies and in cell lines derived from cervical cancer" (PDF). EMBO J. 3: 1151–7. PMC 557488. PMID 6329740. Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-25. Retrieved 2009-02-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Harald zur Hausen". The Gairdner Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  7. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008". Nobelprize.org. 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 2008 Nobel Prize winner "for his discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer"
  8. ^ a b c Cohen, Jon (December 15, 2008). "A Nobel Prize for Overblown Controversy?". Science Insider. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Archived from the original on 14 June 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  9. ^ Cohen, J.; Enserink, M. (2008). "HIV, HPV Researchers Honored, but One Scientist is Left Out". Science. 322 (5899): 174–175. doi:10.1126/science.322.5899.174. PMID 18845715.
  10. ^ "Novi člani Slovenske akademije znanosti in umetnosti" [The New Members of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts]. Sazu.si. June 2015. Retrieved 2016-10-17.

External links

1936 in Germany

Events in the year 1936 in Germany.

Canada Gairdner International Award

The Canada Gairdner International Award is given annually by the Gairdner Foundation at a special dinner to five individuals for outstanding discoveries or contributions to medical science. Receipt of the Gairdner is traditionally considered a precursor to winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine; as of 2018, 86 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to prior Gairdner recipients.

Canada Gairdner International Awards are given annually in the amount of $100,000 (each) payable in Canadian funds and can be awarded to residents of any country in the world. A joint award may be given for the same discovery or contribution to medical science, but in that case each awardee receives a full prize.

Charles S. Mott Prize

The Charles S. Mott Prize was awarded annually by the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation as one of a trio of scientific prizes entirely devoted to cancer research, the other two being the Charles F. Kettering Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize. The prizes, worth US$250,000, were awarded annually between 1979 and 2005. The awards were generally considered the most prestigious in the field.The Mott Prize was awarded for "the most outstanding recent contribution related to the cause or prevention of cancer". In 2006, due to financial pressures on the corporation supporting the Foundation, the three awards were consolidated into a single $250,000 General Motors Cancer Research Award.. In 2006, the first and only winner of the General Motors Cancer Research Award was Napoleone Ferrara.Since 2006 no further prizes have been awarded.

Ernst Jung Prize

The Ernst Jung Prize is a prize awarded annually for excellence in biomedical sciences. The Ernst Jung Foundation, funded by Hamburg merchant Ernst Jung in 1967, has awarded the Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine, now € 300,000, since 1976 and the lifetime achievement Ernst Jung Gold Medal for Medicine since 1990.

German Resource Center for Genome Research

The German Resource Center for Genome Research (RZPD, Resourcenzentrum Primärdatenbank) was a service center for gene and genome research in Berlin-Charlottenburg and Heidelberg.


Harald is the Old Norse form of the given name Harold (Proto-Germanic *harja-waldaz). It's made up the elements Har (army, host) and (v)aldr (leader, ruler, power).

History of cancer

The history of cancer describes the development of the field of oncology and its role in the history of medicine.

List of University of Bonn people

This is a list of University of Bonn people including people who have taught or studied at the University of Bonn

List of University of Freiburg people

This is a list of notable alumni and academics of the University of Freiburg. 10 Nobel laureates are associated with the university and 13 researchers have been honored with the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize since it was first awarded in 1986.

Luc Montagnier

Luc Antoine Montagnier (French: [mɔ̃taɲe]; born 18 August 1932) is a French virologist and joint recipient with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Harald zur Hausen of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A long-time researcher at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, he currently works as a full-time professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.In 2009, Montagnier published two controversial research studies that some homeopaths claimed as support for homeopathy. Although Montagnier disputed any such support, many scientists greeted his claims with scorn and harsh criticism.

Lutz Gissmann

Lutz Gissmann (born Sept 18, 1949 in Kaufbeuren, Germany) is a German virologist and was head of the Division “Genome Modifications and Carcinogenesis” at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg until his retirement in 2015. Lutz Gissmann is known for his seminal research in the field of human papillomaviruses (HPV) and their causal association with human cancer, especially cervical cancer. In his early work, he demonstrated genetic heterogeneity among HPV isolates leading the way to the now well-established concept of distinct HPV types (up to now more than 200) of which some are associated with specific benign or malignant disease. In the early 1980s in the laboratory of later Nobel Prize laureate Harald zur Hausen he was the first (together with the postgraduates Matthias Dürst and Michael Boshart supervised by him) to isolate and characterize HPV16 and HPV18, the two most oncogenic HPV types causing the vast majority of HPV-induced anogenital and head-and-neck cancers. This groundbreaking work of Lutz Gissmann provided experimental evidence for the causal association of specific HPV types with human cancer, and laid the foundation for the development of prophylactic HPV vaccines for the prevention of cervical cancer and other HPV-induced cancers. His current research interest is on development of second generation prophylactic and therapeutic HPV vaccines.

Member of the Academia Europaea

Membership of the Academia Europaea (MAE) is an award conferred by the Academia Europaea to individuals that have demonstrated "sustained academic excellence".Membership is by invitation only by existing MAE only and judged during a peer review selection process. Members are entitled to use the post-nominal letters MAE.

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (Swedish: Nobelpriset i fysiologi eller medicin), administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded yearly for outstanding discoveries in the fields of life sciences and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in his will in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. Nobel was interested in experimental physiology and wanted to establish a prize for scientific progress through laboratory discoveries. The Nobel Prize is presented at an annual ceremony on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel's death, along with a diploma and a certificate for the monetary award. The front side of the medal displays the same profile of Alfred Nobel depicted on the medals for Physics, Chemistry, and Literature. The reverse side is unique to this medal. The most recent Nobel prize was announced by Karolinska Institute on 1 October 2018, and has been awarded to American James P. Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo – for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.As of 2015, 106 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine have been awarded to 198 men and 12 women. The first one was awarded in 1901 to the German physiologist Emil von Behring, for his work on serum therapy and the development of a vaccine against diphtheria. The first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Gerty Cori, received it in 1947 for her role in elucidating the metabolism of glucose, important in many aspects of medicine, including treatment of diabetes.

Some awards have been controversial. This includes one to António Egas Moniz in 1949 for the prefrontal lobotomy, bestowed despite protests from the medical establishment. Other controversies resulted from disagreements over who was included in the award. The 1952 prize to Selman Waksman was litigated in court, and half the patent rights awarded to his co-discoverer Albert Schatz who was not recognized by the prize. The 1962 prize awarded to James D. Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for their work on DNA structure and properties did not acknowledge the contributing work from others, such as Oswald Avery and Rosalind Franklin who had died by the time of the nomination. Since the Nobel Prize rules forbid nominations of the deceased, longevity is an asset, considering prizes are awarded as long as 50 years after the discovery. Also forbidden is awarding any one prize to more than three recipients. In the last half century there has been an increasing tendency for scientists to work as teams, resulting in controversial exclusions.

Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is an annual award bestowed by the Paul Ehrlich Foundation since 1952 for investigations in medicine. It carries a prize money of 100,000 Euro. The prize awarding ceremony is traditionally held on March 14, the birthday of Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich, in the St. Paul's Church, Frankfurt am Main.

Researchers from worldwide are awarded in the following fields of medicine: Immunology, Cancer research, Haematology, Microbiology and experimental and clinical Chemotherapy.

It is one of the highest endowed and internationally most distinguished awards in medicine in Germany.

Some of the prize winners were later awarded the Nobel Prize.

Prince Mahidol Award

The Prince Mahidol Award (Thai: รางวัลสมเด็จเจ้าฟ้ามหิดล) is a Thai Royal Family annual award for outstanding achievements in medicine and public health worldwide.

Program ConCiencia

The Program ConCiencia is an initiative of science communication created in 2006 by the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela and the Consorcio de Santiago. It is based on visits to Santiago de Compostela of Nobel Laureates or analogous laureates in mathematics (Fields Medal, Abel Prize) and computer science (Turing Award). Since 2008 this program organizes also the Fonseca Prize of science communication, which so far has been awarded to Stephen W. Hawking, James Lovelock, Sir David Attenborough and Sir Roger Penrose.

Robert Koch Medal and Award

The Robert Koch Medal and Award are two prizes awarded annually for excellence in the biomedical sciences. These awards grew out of early attempts by Robert Koch to generate funding to support his research into the cause and cure for tuberculosis. Koch discovered the bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) responsible for the dreaded disease and rapidly acquired international support, including 500,000 gold marks from the Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Timeline of cervical cancer

This is a timeline of cervical cancer, describing especially major discoveries and advances in treatment of the disease.

William B. Coley Award

The William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology is presented annually by the Cancer Research Institute, to scientists who have made outstanding achievements in the fields of basic and tumor immunology and whose work has deepened our understanding of the immune system's response to disease, including cancer.

The first awards were made in 1975 to a group of 16 scientists called the "Founders of Cancer Immunology." In 1993, the award was renamed after William B. Coley, a late-nineteenth century surgeon who made the first attempts at the non-surgical treatment of cancer through stimulation of the immune system. For this reason, Coley has become known as the "Father of Cancer Immunotherapy."


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