Volker ter Meulen qualified as MD in 1960 and received a training in virology in the USA. He specialised in paediatrics and in clinical virology. In 1975 he became a full professor and Chairman of the Institute of Virology and Immunobiology at the University of Wuerzburg. He retired in 2002, having twice been elected Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Wuerzburg University. During his research career, ter Meulen worked on molecular and pathogenic aspects of viral infections in man and animals, in particular on infections of the central nervous system. Ter Meulen has on numerous occasions been invited to give policy advice on research matters to German research organisations and to state and federal ministries of science in Germany. Internationally, ter Meulen has served on a number of committees of organisations and scientific societies in the area of virology and infectious diseases. From 2003-2010, ter Meulen was President of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. From 2007-2010, he was President of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC).
In 2013 he was elected co-chair of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), and between 2017 and 2021 he acted as IAP co-president. At the request of the IAP Steering Committee, Volker ter Meulen has been appointed as IAP Special Advisor.