Dr Claire Colenutt received the Innovation in Animal Healthcare award on Monday 3 December 2018 at the Guildford Innovation Awards 2018. Dr Colenutt won the award for the creation of a new foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) field test, which could improve disease surveillance and alleviate the burden which it places on many smallholders and subsistence farmers who are reliant on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)-susceptible livestock.
The new sampling method, which is the result of research funded by the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), is able to detect FMDV in the field before animals show any clinical signs of the disease. The innovation augments current surveillance methods that rely on the recognition of clinical signs in susceptible animals and collection of samples from the infected animals, which requires specific veterinary expertise.
Importantly for farmers in both developed and developing countries, the new technique requires little expertise as it consists of a simple swab taken from any area within a farm environment. This relieves the pressure on veterinary services and increases the number of potential samples that can be taken, enhancing the scope of surveillance, which is vital for controlling outbreaks.
“I am surprised and delighted to win the award. Science can be a frustrating process so this is a real boost as we work on further developing the test and expanding it into other diseases, which we hope will provide relief from disease for livestock and farmers around the world. I’d like to thank the judge Mark Whiteley, founder of Whiteley Clinics, for choosing my research and to Guildford Borough Council for supporting innovation in Guildford and the surrounding area”, said Dr Colenutt.
Reducing the prevalence of FMD will not only improve the welfare of susceptible animals, but relieve the socio-economic pressure felt by those in some of the world’s poorest agricultural communities across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This novel surveillance technique could also help support a robust response to outbreaks in FMD-free countries, where the disease can cause catastrophic economic loses such as the 2001 outbreak which was estimated to cost the UK £8 billion.
“This is an exciting new approach that will extend the work we can do on FMD and other devastating livestock diseases. It is great that Claire’s work has been recognised by this award”, said Dr Simon Gubbins, Head of the Transmission Biology group at Pirbright.
The Guildford Innovation Awards are aimed at celebrating inspirational innovation and promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths ('STEM') subjects in Guildford and surrounding areas. This is the second year the awards have run, with Pirbright’s former PhD student, Tom Whitehead, securing the 2017 Young Innovator of the Year award.