Sándor Belák

Sandor Belak


I was qualified as a veterinary surgeon from the University of Veterinary Sciences in Budapest in 1969. In 1970-71 my work was continued in UN services at the headquarters of the Food- and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome, Italy and at the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Institute Ankara, Turkey. In 1971 I returned to the Veterinary University in Budapest and continued the research, focusing mainly on respiratory and enteric diseases of sheep and cattle, as well as on complex respiratory diseases in horses, with special regard to adenoviruses, herpesviruses, reoviruses, paramyxoviruses and on associated bacterial infections. In 1979 I conducted research for eight months on herpesvirus and parvovirus infection biology at the National Animal Disease Centre in Ames, Iowa, USA. After returning to the Veterinary University in Budapest in late 1979, the research was continued on the infection biology of adenoviruses.

My PhD thesis “Infection Biology of Ovine Adenoviruses” was defended in Budapest in 1978. Subsequently, between 1978 and 1985 with my colleagues we further studied the infection biology of adenoviruses and herpesviruses and developed novel vaccines against ovine adenoviruses, equine herpesvirus type 1, bovine herpesvirus type 1, as well as a novel immunisation method again equine herpesvirus type 2, which is triggering the respiratory disease complexes of young foals.  

In 1983, in the frame of a UNDP fellowship, I came to Uppsala, Sweden and at the Department of Medical Genetics of Uppsala University we studied the genetic background type 2 bovine adenovirus variants, which are able to cross the host-species barrier. In 1985 with my family we moved to Uppsala. I was employed first as research engineer at the National Veterinary Institute (SVA) and the tasks were to develop novel methods of molecular diagnostic virology.

In 1994 I defended my Doctor of Science (DSc) thesis at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, under the title “Application of DNA hybridization and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in veterinary diagnostic virology”. 

In 1995 I received the interesting task to work as the Head of the Joint Research & Development Division in Virology of SVA and of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

In 2001 I became Professor in Virology at the Szent-István University in Budapest and in 2003 at SLU in Uppsala, with special focus on the diagnosis and infection biology of viral diseases in veterinary medicine.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences elected me as “external member” in 2007.

In parallel with my research and education activities, I work as the Director of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) "Collaborating Centre for the Application of Biotechnology-based Diagnosis of Infectious Diseases in Veterinary Medicine". At this OIE CC we are focusing on international standardization, validation and training and regularly participate in OIE expert activities, e.g., by working in expert groups and by writing chapters in the Manuals and in other OIE publications.

The European Commission gave me the task to coordinate three large EU research project consortia and the partner group leader position in 26 EU research projects. In the EU consortia and in Swedish national research projects our groups were working on herpes-, corona, arteri, influenza- and pestiviruses, molecular diagnostics, food safety and biosafety, as main R&D subjects.

Between 2006 and 2012 I was the President of the European Society for Veterinary Virology (ESVV).

My research work was granted by the Centenary Award of the British Veterinary Association, the George Fleming Literary Prize, the Thuréus prize of the Royal Society of Sciences, Sweden and the Köves prize of the Hungarian Veterinary Association/Ceva.  In 2012 I was decorated with the Gold Medal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, KSLA.  Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden delivered the award “for outstanding research work in veterinary virology".

The results of our research work have been summarised in approximately 290 scientific articles published in international peer-reviewed journals. I authored ten books/book chapters and regularly work as expert of international organizations, like the EC, OIE, FAO and IAEA.

Regarding teaching and mentoring at various universities, my regular task was/is to give university lectures in the subjects of virology and in epizootiology in Budapest and in Uppsala, to participate in the laboratory training of the students, to write university lecture notes and book chapters, to support the undergraduate and postgraduate education in veterinary medicine. In the frame of postgraduate education, I was supporting 23 PhD programmes in various countries so far as supervisor.

From 2014 I am working as project coordinator at BVF-SLU and the director of the OIE Collaborating Centre.


On-going research projects

Formas Strong Research Environments BioBridges project No. 2011-1692, Coordinator of the project
Starting September 2012

The aim of the project is to develop a diagnostic platform with ground-breaking methods for sample preparation, detection and analysis of viruses and bacteria in animals and foodstuff. The project consists of three main modules dealing with advanced sample preparation, amplification/tagging and detection/characterization, respectively. The goal is to produce and integrate various technologies to produce an advanced analytical platform. The initial targets for the platform are avian viruses and bacteria, including zoonoses, with particular relevance in poultry.

NADIV EU project: Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza, Diagnosis, Immunology and Vaccination. WP Manager.
Starting March 2014

Focusing on H9N2 AI and ND viruses, this project aims to increase knowledge on the interactions of these viruses often co-circulating in the poultry population, and to gain insights for a better diagnosis and control through the evaluation of accurate diagnostic tools and appropriate vaccination schemes. To this regard and in line with the ANIHWA topic 2 priorities, an international team of experienced scientists from Belgium, Israel, Italy and Sweden investigate the impact of these viruses together on disease severity and virus pathogenicity, immune response to infections and vaccination.

Publikationer i urval

Belák, S.: Experiences of an OIE Collaborating Centre in Molecular Diagnosis of
Transboundary Animal Diseases: a Review.128. 109-118. In: First International
Conference of the OIE Reference Laboratories and Collaborating Centres. Ed:
Lombard, M., Dodet, B. & the OIE Scientific and Technical Department, Dev.
Biol. Basel, Krager, Basel, 2007.

Pestana, EA, Belák,S., Diallo, A., Crowther, JR, Viljoen. G, J.: Early, Rapid and Sensitive Veterinary Molecular Diagnostics - Real Time PCR Applications. Handbook, Springer Dordrecht Press, Heidelberg, London, New York, 2010.

Belák, S. and Liu, L: Recent Advances in Veterinary Diagnostic Virology:
Report from a Collaborating Centre of the WorldOrganization for Animal Health (OIE). Advanced Techniques in Diagnostic Microbiology, 2nd edition. Eds: Tang, Yi-Wei and Stratton, Charles W. DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-3970-7_2, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013. P. 661-679.

Granberg, F., Karlsson, O., Leijon, M., Liu, L., Belák, S.: Molecular Approaches to Recognize Relevant and Emerging Infectious Diseases in Animals. Chapter 7. Veterinary Infection Biology: Molecular Diagnostics and High-Throughput Strategies, Methods in Molecular Biology, Mónica V. Cunha and João Inácio (eds.), vol. 1247, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-2004-4_33, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015.

Granberg, F., Karlsson, O.E., Belák, S.: Metagenomic Approaches to Disclose Disease-Associated Pathogens: Detection of Viral Pathogens in Honeybees. Chapter 33. Veterinary Infection Biology: Molecular Diagnostics and High-Throughput Strategies, Methods in Molecular Biology, Mónica V. Cunha and João Inácio (eds.), vol. 1247, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-2004-4_33, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015.

Van Borm, S., Belák, S., Freimanis, G., Fusaro, A., Granberg, F., Höper, D., King, D.P., Monne, I., Orton, R., and Rosseel, P.: Next-Generation Sequencing in Veterinary Medicine: How Can the Massive Amount of Information Arising from High- Throughput Technologies Improve Diagnosis, Control, and Management of Infectious Diseases? Chapter 30 in: Methods in Molecular Biology, Eds: Mónica V. Cunha and João Inácio (vol. 1247, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-2004-4_30, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015.


Professor emeritus vid Institutionen för biomedicin och veterinär folkhälsovetenskap (BVF); Enheten för virologi
Telefon: 0705521664
BVF, Virologi, Box 7023
Besöksadress: Ulls väg 26, Uppsala