Jump to top menu Jump to main menu Jump to content
Profile picture of Sander Herfst
Principal Investigator

Dr. S. (Sander) Herfst

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor

  • Department
  • Viroscience



In the last five years Sander Herfst's most important achievement was related to airborne transmission of avian influenza H5N1 virus between mammals. With the publication of this research (Science, 2012, first author), one of the most important and urgent questions in influenza research has been answered; he showed that avian influenza H5N1 virus can become transmissible between mammals. This research also demonstrated that antibodies induced by pre-pandemic H5N1 vaccines neutralize the airborne virus and that stockpiled antiviral drugs are effective against airborne H5N1 virus.

About this project
The project highlighted new fundamental details about genetic changes required for airborne transmission that had remained elusive so far. With collaborators at Cambridge University UK, Sander Herfst and his team further showed that the individual airborne H5N1 mutations are already circulating in the field, and that the chance of airborne H5N1 virus emerging in the field is small, but not negligible (Science, 2012).Subsequently, he and others also applied the accumulated knowledge on H5N1 virus to H7N9 virus when this virus emerged in China in 2013, to show that this virus naturally acquired some airborne transmissibility, and shared mutations with airborne H5N1 virus (Nature, 2013).

Field(s) of expertise

Molecular Virology and Virus Evolution


Click here to view the publications of Sander Herfst.

Teaching activities

Sander Herfst has been teaching at master's programmes at ErasmusMC Rotterdam, HAN Nijmegen, Radboud University Nijmegen, Ecoles normales superieres Lyon (France) and HKU-Pasteur (Hong Kong) since 2010, on topics ranging from "airborne transmission and pathogenicity of influenza viruses" to "biosafety and biosecurity in practice". Furthermore, Herfst has provided lectures for BSc students at the Erasmus University College Rotterdam, and for the course on laboratory animal science at ErasmusMC. In the last years he has (co-)supervised several PhD-students and BSc and MSc students.

Other positions

Since 2008, Herfst is the responsible researcher for GMO permits 99-090 (research on influenza virus) and 07-038 (Pathogenesis and transmission of (highly pathogenic avian) influenza viruses). He is also responsible for the high containment (animal) facility (ABSL3+) designed for work on highly pathogenic influenza viruses (including supervision of daily lab work, theoretical and practical training of employees etc.). Together with the facility manager of the animal experimentation center and the biosafety officers of Erasmus MC, Herfst organizes training sessions for employees who want to work in our high containment facilities.

Scholarships, grants, and awards

Sander Herfst is funded by the prestigious Dutch NWO VIDI grant and the European H2020 program VetBioNet.

Heine-Medin 2018 award for dr. Sander Herfst.

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

Molecular Virology and Virus Evolution

My Groups