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The Order Nidovirales: a serendipitous finding

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Professor Horzinek studied veterinary medicine in Germany at Giessen and Hannover Universities, from 1956 to 1961. A year later he obtained his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (Dr. and in 1970 he gained his ‘Habilitation’ (a PhD equivalent) in virology. He began his career in virology at the Public Health Laboratory in Hannover, where he worked as a research fellow of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. He later helped to establish the Chair of Virology at Hannover Veterinary School, and then spent a year as a research fellow at the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas in Caracas, Venezuela.

Upon his return, he became Head of the Exotic Diseases Division at the Federal Research Institute for Animal Virus Diseases in Tübingen, Germany. In 1971, he moved to The Netherlands where he was appointed Head of Department and Professor of Virology and Virus Diseases at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University. Since 1992, Professor Horzinek has been director of Utrecht University’s Institute of Veterinary Research, and in 1996 Professor Horzinek established, and has since directed, the Graduate School Animal Health.

Professor Horzinek has been honored with several titles outside the Veterinary Faculty of Utrecht, namely: Associate Professor at the Veterinary School in Hannover, Germany, Courtesy Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, USA , and Clinical Professor of Virology at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, USA .

During his career so far, Professor Horzinek has gained a number of prizes and awards from research organisations in Giessen (Germany), Liège (Belgium), Geelong (Australia), Yokohama (Japan) and Amsterdam (The Netherlands), and honorary doctorates from the University of Ghent (Belgium) and the Veterinary School in Hannover (Germany).

His publications include in excess of 250 scientific papers and more than 30 books and monographs, a handbook and many CD-ROM articles. He has been an editor or an editorial board member for scientific journals published in the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, France and Italy. At present, Professor Horzinek is Editor-in-Chief for the Elsevier published journal ‘Veterinary Microbiology’. He is the founding president of the European Society of Feline Medicine, a scientific society based in the UK, and is a founding member of the German Gesellschaft für Kynologische Forschung, a fund-raising initiative for veterinary research.

His most recent, and arguably most ambitious, project to date is the establishment of the online veterinary research journal, Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow. This new venture will be a full-time occupation as soon as he relinquishes his other responsibilities at the Utrecht Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht.

Major research accomplishments


. first description of the structure and morphology of classical swine fever virus

. first evidence for the existence of an icosahedral capsid symmetry in enveloped RNA viruses


. elucidation of capsid structure in pesti-, arteri- and rubiviruses

. definition and naming of the pestiviruses

. first description of immunizing, non-infectious immune-stimulating virion subunits

(later rediscovered and termed ISCOMS ]


. first purification and ultrastructural analysis of lactic dehydrogenase virus

. characterization and definition of arteriviruses

. etiology, molecular definition, immunopathogenesis and diagnosis of feline peritonitis.

first description of a papillomavirus in birds and characterization

. independent initiation of subgenomic coronavirus mRNAs synthesis

. antigenic relationships between porcine, feline and canine coronaviruses

. definition of the ‘corona-like superfamily’ of viruses

. definition, naming and introduction of toroviruses as a new taxonomic cluster into virology

. heptade repeat in corona- and torovirus spike protein

. genetic and antigenic drift in coronaviruses

. virus evolution: RNA -recombination between coronaviruses, toroviruses and a hemagglutinin-esterase gen;

polymerase relationships

. immunomodulation and pathogenicity of cytokines in viral infections

. antigenic relatedness of feline immunodeficiency virus and equine infectious anemia virus.

successful chemotherapy of feline immunodeficiency virus infection (feline AIDS ]

. coronavirus assembly; first in vitro construction of coronavirus-like particles

. establishment of the Nidovirales, the second order in animal virus taxonomy

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminar Programme, Department of Veterinary Medicine series.

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