Interview with Ron Fouchier: ‘If you stop this research, you surrender to the next pandemic’
The fierce debate that arose when Ron Fouchier announced the results of an experiment in which he created a potential pandemic flu still haunts him.
He feels “super honored”, Ron Fouchier (56). On Friday, March 10, the Rotterdam virologist received the prestigious M.W. Beijerinck Virology Award from the KNAW for his leading research into respiratory viruses. “To be on the same list as all those big names who have received the award is a great honor. The last time a Dutchman got it was 25 years ago – that was Ab Osterhaus.” Involuntarily he got a lump in his throat during the ceremony, he says after the ceremony.
The price is perhaps even more special for Fouchier than for his predecessors. Because long before virologists were seriously threatened by corona opponents, he was already acquainted with such resistance.
A few days before the award ceremony, the tall virologist sat down for a conversation at a table in his office on the seventeenth floor of the Erasmus MC, where the Viroscience department is housed. He likes to talk about his research, but keeps his arms crossed in a reserved way. Because inevitably we come to an important pivot of his studies: the so-called gain-of-function research, in which you make viruses potentially more dangerous and investigate them in a highly secured lab in order to learn from them, and to be able to develop medicines and vaccines.
Prof. Fouchier is one of the PI’s of Frontrunner Project Predicting, Measuring and Quantifying Airborne Virus Transmission. Read more about this project: Predicting, measuring and quantifying airborne virus transmission
Date: March 7, 2023