Honorary doctorate for veterinarian Gerd Sutter

26 Jul 2021

The University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover rewards commitment to the one-health approach, in which the links between human, animal and ecological health play a major role.

Professor Gerd Sutter at his institute. | © C. Olesinski / LMU

The University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover (TiHo) has announced the award of an honorary doctorate to LMU’s Professor Gerd Sutter, veterinarian and vaccine developer. The press release issued by the University states that “in the course of his career, and most particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, he has made important contributions to an integrated, science-based approach to both human and animal health”. Virologist Professor Christian Drosten and veterinarian Professor Lothar Wieler (President of the Robert Koch Institute) are also on the TiHo’s latest list of honorees.

Sutter receives the accolade primarily for his outstanding research on emerging animal pathogens and infectious diseases, and for his commitment to the one-health concept. The term one health refers to the fact that human health and animal welfare are both closely linked to the natural environment. Thus, environmental factors play a significant role in both the emergence of infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, and the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Sutter’s work has focused particularly on applied aspects of infection research, and he has pioneered novel strategies for the development of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines. This has resulted in the production of several candidate vaccines against different diseases, which have been approved for clinical studies. These vaccines are based on the Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara (MVA), a harmless poxvirus, which has itself been used as a vaccine for decades. Sutter uses the MVA virus as a vector. By splicing the genetic information for the synthesis of a specific immunogenic protein into the genome of MVA, one can obtain virus particles that can be used for the production of vaccines against a wide range of pathogens. Sutter exploited this principle to develop a vaccine against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which is transmitted by camels. An analogous vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is now undergoing clinical trials. In addition, he is working on other zoonotic infections, such as bird flu and West Nile fever.

Sutter studied at LMU, and obtained his doctorate there. He then worked as postdoctoral researcher in the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in the US. On his return to Germany, he led an independent research group in the Institute of Virology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. He is a veterinary specialist for Microbiology and Virology, and completed his Habilitation in Virology in Munich. Before assuming his present position as Professor of Virology in the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Zoonoses at LMU, he led the Division of Virology at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut.

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