Last week, following a series of lectures and discussions with King Saud University, 2008 Nobel Laureate Herald zur Hausen signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with KSU, the most recent step in the University’s “Attracting Nobel Laureates Program.”
Since launching the Nobel Laureate Program in 2007, KSU has established ties of various degrees with more than 20 recipients including Dr. Hausen, who earned his award for ground-breaking research linking human papilloma viruses (HPV) to the cause of cervical cancer. The KSU Nobel Laureates’ program is geared toward enriching the academic and scientific milieu at the University and across the Kingdom by benefiting from the ideas, expertise, and contributions of Nobel laureates in their respective areas of specialization, including medicine, economics, physics, and chemistry.
In the memorandum, Dr. Hausen laid the groundwork for future collaborative efforts between the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and King Saud University medical staffs, in which the two institutions will exchange knowledge and information. In addition, the agreement outlines an exchange program that will afford KSU senior students the opportunity to train in Dr. Hausen’s DKFZ laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.
Dr. Hausen explained that his Nobel recognition speaks volumes of proudly Germany’s progressive tack in medical research, but emphasized that countries with the highest reputation for research must still place great value on international exchange of knowledge and information.
“We are dependent on the international exchange of knowledge and information,” he said in a relatively recent medical publication interview. “When I consider my own research activity at the German Cancer Research Center, I find that to a significant extent it is based on advances and insights in global molecular biology and technology.”
In his quest to advance an effective international medical network, Dr. Hausen has taken his message on the road, including his September27-29 visit to King Saud University where he spoke at the Colleges of Medicine and Science in Riyadh and in the Center for Female Scientific and Medical Colleges in Malez.
Earlier this year, he attended the Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau and spoke to large groups of students and young researchers. This passion is what helped bring him to Saudi Arabia and King Saud University, where not only did he speak, he met with students and young researchers. Accompanied by KSU officials, Professor Hausen also took time to visit with King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre.
Dr. Hausen is a profoundly important addition to the KSU medical network. Even before his Nobel recognition, he possessed an international reputation for his long-time service in Germany’s DKFZ where for 20 years he was the management board chair of the country’s largest biomedical research institution. He is presently vice president of the European Cancer organization.
Professor Hausen was born on March 11, 1936 in the Province of Westphalia in Germany. He received a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1960 from the University of Düsseldorf where he remained briefly as a medical assistant. He moved to Philadelphia and worked at the Virus Laboratories of the Children's Hospital where he contributed to the discovery that a cancer virus, the Epstein-Barrvirus, can transform healthy cells into cancer cells – validation that viruses can cause cancer cell formation.
In 1976, Dr. Hausen published the hypothesis that human papilloma virus plays an important role in the cause of cervical cancer. He and a research team identified HPV16and HPV18 in cervical cancers in 1983 and 1984. This research was responsible for the development of a vaccine introduced in 2006.
In the 1990s, he advocated and adamantly campaigned for significant funding for large research centers which have since been initiated. This year, as part of Germany’s Health Research Framework Program, the federal government is establishing six German health research centers where focus will be on neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, heart disease, infection, cancer, and lung disease.
In an interview earlier this year published in a medical journal, Dr. Hausen expressed his delight of Germany’s progress and what it means to medical research, adding that the pooling of information makes it possible to translate results of basic and clinical research into medical care measures that can benefit patients much faster.
“The best research groups in university medical schools and non-university research establishments collaborate closely with these centers and also involve industry,” he said. “This is meant to generate groundbreaking discoveries as fast as possible and open up new therapeutic possibilities. It is also important, however, that the equality of university and specialized researched institutions is recognized and respected.”
Some of the past laureates and the year they received Nobel recognition include:
- William Phillips, National Institute for Standards and Technology – USA, Physics 1997
- Louis Ignarro, UCLA, Medicine/physiology, 1998
- Ferid Murad, University of Texas-Houston, Medicine/physiology 1998
- Günter Blobel, Rockefeller University, Medicine/physiology, 1999
- Robert Mundell, Columbia University, Economics 1999
- Gerardus Hooft, University of Utrecht-The Netherlands, Physics 1999
- James Heckman, University of Chicago, Economics 2000
- Carl Wieman, University of Colorado-Boulder, Physics 2001
- Sir Paul Nurse, Imperial Cancer Research Fund-UK, Medicine/physiology 2001
- Kurt Wüthrich, Scripps Research Institute-USA, Chemistry 2002
- Anthony Leggett, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Physics, 2003
- Clive Granger, University of California-San Diego, Economics, 2003
- Finn Kydland, University of California-Santa Barbara, Economics 2004
- David Gross, University of California-Santa Barbara, Physics, 2004
- Richard Schrock, MIT, Chemistry 2005
- John Hall, University of Colorado-Boulder, Physics 2005
- Thomas Schelling, University of Maryland, Economics 2005
- Theodor Hänsch, Max-Planck Institute for Quantum Optics-Germany, 2005
- Edmund Phelps, Columbia University, Economics 2006
- Mohammed Yunus, Grameen Bank-Bangladesh, Peace work, 2006