Harald zur Hausen
Harald zur Hausen was born in Gelsenkirchen in 1936. He studied Medicine at Bonn, Hamburg, and Düsseldorf. After completing his doctorate, he worked at the Institute for Medical Microbiology of the University of Düsseldorf and then relocated to the Virus Laboratories of the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, USA. In 1969, he habilitated at the University of Würzburg, where he held a position at the Institute of Virology up to 1972. In that year, he was then appointed Professor of Clinical Virology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, moving on to accept the Chair for Virology and Hygiene of the University of Freiburg in 1977. From 1983 to 2003, Harald zur Hausen served as Chairman and Academic Member of the Foundation Board of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) at Heidelberg.
In 2008, Harald zur Hausen was distinguished by the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his achievements in cancer research – particularly for his finding that cervical cancer in women is triggered via viral infections. Zur Hausen received one half of the prize, while the other one went to Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of the HI-Virus, which causes the AIDS disease.
Among other honors, Harald zur Hausen was awarded the German Cancer Aid Prize in 2007, and he also is the bearer of the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In May 2008, he received the honorary doctorate of the Medical Faculty of the University of Würzburg.
Research / Nobel Prize
Harald zur Hausen's predominant scientific interest is directed towards the role of viruses in the origin of tumors. Even during his Würzburg days, he had already been the first to prove that the genotype of the Epstein-Barr virus occurs in certain carcinoma in humans.
Harald zur Hausen continued to study this interrelation between DNA viruses and cancer. And so, in 1983, he came upon the prize-worthy discovery that the so-called papilloma viruses contribute to the development of cervical cancer in humans. His fundamental research also resulted in a vaccine against cervical cancer, which has been approved by the German authorities as well. Since 2007, Germany's statutory health insurance providers will accept the cost of vaccination for girls between the ages of 12 and 17.