The reward was “a great surprise and a great pleasure,” zur Hausen said in an interview with Germany’s ZDF public television broadcaster after he was
named. “This prize means a great deal to me because on the one hand an area has been recognised that has increasingly moved to the forefront in cancer research, namely the role of infectious agents,” he said.
The professor emeritus and former Chairman and Scientific Director of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg will share the award with France’s Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, who discovered two viruses that cause HIV.
Zur Hausen, 71, will officially receive his portion of the approximately €1.4 million award on December 10 – the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.
“Harald zur Hausen went against current dogma and postulated that oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV) caused cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women,” the institute said in a statement. His research, which began in the 1970s, has led to the recent development of prophylactic vaccines against high risk HPV types 16 and 18.
“The global public health burden attributable to human papilloma viruses is considerable,” the institute’s statement continuted. “More than 5 percent of all cancers worldwide are caused by persistent infection with this virus.”