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Profile picture of Sander Herfst
Principal Investigator

Dr. S. (Sander) Herfst

Associate Professor

Associate Professor

  • Department
  • Viroscience



Research interests

As a PhD-student, Sander has studied vaccination approaches to combat the newly discovered human metapneumovirus that causes severe respiratory disease in children and the elderly (thesis defense in 2008). As a postdoc he has provided important insights on the pathogenicity and transmissibility of the pH1N1 (‘Mexican flu’) virus during the 2009 pandemic and has uncovered important virulence and new antiviral drug resistance markers of this pH1N1 virus. He worked extensively on the genetic and phenotypic traits that render avian H5N1, H7N9 and H10N8 influenza viruses transmissible via the air between mammals and has led studies on the anatomical site of the respiratory tract from which influenza viruses are transmitted via the air.

Response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Sander participated in studies on the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 in macaques and on an intranasal prophylactic treatment to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. He has led studies on the transmissibility of MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 after they emerged in humans. His group was the first to show that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted via the air over a distance of more than 1 meter. When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic resulted in a high demand and short supply of face masks he supervised a collaborative effort to test locally produced facemasks for their filtration efficiency for coronavirus in custom-made experimental set-ups.


Field(s) of expertise

Molecular virology and virus evolution, Respiratory virus transmission, influenza virus virulence and pathogenesis, virus sampling from the air.

Education and career

  • 2016 - present: Assistant Professor, Department of Viroscience, ErasmusMC, The Netherlands
  • 2002-2008: PhD, Department of Virology, Erasmus MC, The Netherlands
  • 2000-2002: MSc, Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 1996-2000: BSc, Biotechnology, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Department of Laboratory Science and Chemical Engineering, Hogeschool van Utrecht, The Netherlands


According to Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge (accessed on 01 May 2021), my H-index is 34, with 81 publications with an average of >85 citations per publication.

Full list of publications: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=herfst+s&sort=date 

20 selected publications:




Teaching activities

Sander has previously trained and (co-)supervised three post-docs and three PhD students and was/is co-promotor of Martin Linster (2020), Jasmin Kutter (2021) and Miruna Rosu (2022).

He has lectured and developed course materials in different international and national courses of the Ecoles normales supérieures de Lyon, France (MSc), the Hong Kong University-Pasteur Virology Course (MSc and PhD), Radboud University Nijmegen (MSc), Erasmus University College Rotterdam (BSc), Hogeschool Arnhem and Nijmegen (MSc), the Virology Course of the ErasmusMC Molecular Medicine Postgraduate School (MSc and PhD), the ErasmusMC Querido Honours College (MSc) and the ErasmusMC Infection & Immunity MSc program.

Sander is one of the organizers of the two-yearly Virology Course for PhD-students, post-docs and medical microbiologists, during which national and international experts in the field of virology present seminars.

In his function as departmental animal experimentation coordinator, he has provided lectures for the course on laboratory animal science at ErasmusMC (a mandatory course - approved by the Dutch government - to plan and execute animal experiments).

Other positions

Sander is actively involved in several scientific advisory boards. He is a member of The Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM), an independent scientific advisory body that provides advice to the government (primarily the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W)) on the risks to human health and the environment of the production and use of GMOs. In addition, the COGEM informs the government of ethical and societal issues linked to genetic modification. Furthermore, he is member of the US NIAID/NIH CEIRS Network Virus Risk Assessment Working Group and he has acted as consultant of the Dutch Bureau Biosecurity of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment. Shortly after the identification of SARS-CoV-2 he was asked to participate in the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 animal models group and the Joint Expert Panel Health Holland Project that investigates the possibilities of safe indoor and semi-indoor sports events during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sander is routinely invited to evaluate the work of others. He has reviewed manuscripts for Nature Microbiology, Nature Communications, Nature Medicine, Nature Reviews Microbiology, Cell Host & Microbes, PNAS, PLOS Pathogens and ~15 other journals. He is on the editorial board of One Health Outlook and serves as an academic editor of PLOS One and was guest editor for Current Opinion in Virology.

Sander is also involved in reviewing for funding agencies and he has participated in grant reviews and/or review boards for ZonMW (Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development) VENI grants, ZonMW Off-Road grants and the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong.


Scholarships, grants, and awards

Sander’s research is/was supported by a continuous stream of funding including a prestigious Dutch NWO VIDI grant, NWO VICI grant,  multiple NIAID/NIH grants, EC FP7 grant Antigone, EC H2020 grant VetBioNet, and the Dutch ZonMW COVID-19 ‘second wave’ program.

In 2018, Sander received the prestigious Heine-Medin Award of the European Society for Clinical Virology for his “remarkable research on the mechanisms that drive airborne transmissibility of respiratory viruses”.


What research group(s) or lab(s) do you participate in?

Molecular Virology and Virus Evolution

My Groups