Picture of Dr. Sylvia  van den Hurk

Dr. Sylvia van den Hurk BSc, MSc, PhD Professor, Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology


Research Area(s)

  • DNA vaccines
  • Bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1)
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV)


Dr. Sylvia van den Hurk is the Program Manager of Viral Pathogenesis & Vaccine Development program at VIDO-InterVac. She received her MSc at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands and PhD at University of Saskatchewan.  Her research interests include molecular pathogenesis of bovine herpes virus-1 (BHV-1), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), and the development of novel DNA, protein and dendritic cell vaccine formulations, in particular for RSV and HCV.  Dr. van den Hurk has published more than 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts, reviews and book chapters, and 8 patents with 1 pending. She has mentored more than 30 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.  At the university she is Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine.


  • Program Manager: Viral Pathogenesis & Vaccine Development 
  • Member of Science Management Team
  • Member: RAPID team
  • Member: Neonatal Vaccines group
  • Professor: Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine

Member: University of Saskatchewan College of Graduate Studies and Research


  • Department of Veterinary Microbiology, University of Saskatchewan: Ph.D. 
  • Departments of Plant Pathology, Genetics and Molecular Biology, University of Wageningen, the Netherlands: M.Sc. and B.Sc.

Current Projects

DNA vaccines, RSV vaccines, Hepatitis C vaccines

Research Areas

  • DNA vaccines: DNA immunization is a promising technology potentially leading to balanced long-lived immune responses. My research group was one of the first to demonstrate the efficacy of DNA vaccines in large animal species. Our focus is to further optimize this vaccination strategy by improving cellular and nuclear entry of the DNA vaccine, slow release of the DNA vaccine, and formulation with immune modulators.
  • Bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1): Herpesviruses cause significant primary and recurrent infections worldwide. BHV-1 causes severe infections in cattle and provides an excellent model for studying herpesviruses in general. Our current focus is the structural and functional characterization of the proteins in the tegument, which are located between the nucleocapsid and the virus envelope. These proteins are thought to have regulatory functions and to play a role in viral assembly and immune evasion.
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): Human RSV (HRSV) is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and viral pneumonia in infants and young children, resulting in the hospitalization of up to 2 per cent of children in their first year of life. There are no effective vaccines for HRSV. Bovine RSV (BRSV) is a major respiratory pathogen in calves. Since both viruses are closely related, we are using BRSV as a model to study the virus-host interactions. Furthermore, we developed novel vaccine formulations, which we are now further characterizing and testing for eventual application in human infants.
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV): HCV is the etiological agent of non-A, non-B hepatitis. An estimated 170 million people are infected with HCV. We demonstrated the potential for dendritic cell therapy against HCV in a mouse model. To further evaluate the potential of this approach, we plan to characterize the dendritic cells from chronic HCV patients in comparison to healthy individuals, and to optimize the functional properties of these dendritic cells by treatment with immunomodulatory compounds.