January 20, 2022
Dr. Haagmans' research line focusses on the pathogenesis of viral infections and especially those viruses that emerge through zoonotic transmission, including SARS-CoV-2, as a basis for (future) interventions and medical countermeasures. He is a recognized leader in the field of Coronaviruses. Not only is he one of the leading scientists in the coronavirus field, he has a strong track-record in basic and translational virology studies. Over the years, he has established a line of basic virology and viro-immunology studies addressing emerging viruses, notably coronaviruses. He has always done this work in collaboration with clinicians and clinical microbiologists, who have benefitted from his in-depth knowledge, teaching, and support in bringing science into clinical practice. These collaborations also often result in new laboratory or animal studies, for instance testing the protective efficacy of plasma treatment for SARS-CoV-2 prevention in hamsters, or the development of novel serology assays in response to the outbreak. Over the last several years, he has characterized the genome of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, identified the receptor used by this virus and contributed to the identification of the dromedary camel as the reservoir species.
He tested a vaccine candidate that reduces the transmission of MERS-CoV by vaccinating dromedary camels. These studies led to a more detailed understanding of the biology of this emerging virus and led to novel intervention strategies to contain the outbreak. Recently, he expanded his research to include SARS-CoV-2 and generated human monoclonal antibodies blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection, including 47D11 which he published in May this year in Nature Communications. In addition to his coronavirus research, he has characterized the genomes of many other novel viruses and their variants by full genome analysis, including ZIKA virus in the fetus of a woman with miscarriage. Special emphasis was put also on developing protocols for diagnostic work with ebolavirus in western Africa, the existing biosafety laboratories currently operational at the Viroscience Department and the newly built animal biosafety lab. This is compulsory to perform research with these highly pathogenic viruses taking into account appropriate biosafety and biosecurity measures.