When investigating virus outbreaks in humans, it is of great importance to develop intervention options like vaccines, but also to acquire knowledge to prevent outbreaks altogether. Ron Fouchier is one of the researchers at PDPC who is working on fundamental research into viruses. ‘We have no idea how zoonotic viruses change and become transmissible between people. That is one of the big unknowns in emerging pandemics which I’m trying to figure out down to the smallest molecular level.’
Fouchier and his team work on these viruses in the BSL3+ lab (Biosafety Level 3+) at Erasmus MC. Here, researchers from Erasmus MC and elsewhere can work safely with pathogens without the risk of getting infected or the virus leaving the facility. The goal is to predict which viruses are most likely to cause novel outbreaks and to develop diagnostics, vaccines and medications before they cause human disease.
Since it is still unknown how and to what extent viruses are being transferred through air, this is a topic Fouchier would like to work on with the TU Delft, by developing equipment that measures virus particles in the air. ‘When a patient exhales, we wish to measure how much of the virus goes through the air and how much transmission could occur his way.’