The DEFEND consortium held its second annual meeting in Brussels on 26 - 27 September 2019 to consolidate and progress the research of its members on African swine fever (ASF) and lumpy skin disease (LSD). The consortium, led by Dr Pip Beard from The Pirbright Institute, is made up of 30 scientific partners from academia, industry and government that are working together to halt the emergence of these two livestock pathogens into Europe and neighbouring countries.
The meeting brought together more than 45 participants from 24 partner organisations, who travelled from across Europe and as far as South Africa to hear updates from each of the scientific work package leaders. Progress reports and findings were discussed on the first day, covering areas such as ASF and LSD vaccine development, transmission studies to inform prevention strategies and investigations into how environmental factors like conflict and migration can influence the range of these diseases.
The day also included talks about the ASF situation in Romania from Institutul de Diagnostic şi Sănătate Animaliă (IDAH) and an update on LSD in the Russian Federation from FGI Federal Centre for Animal health (FGBI ARRIAH). The DEFEND project also welcomed their European Commission Policy Officer, who gave a highly relevant overview on ‘EU research funding on African swine fever: State of play and plan’ which outlined DEFEND’s vital role within the portfolio of European Union funded research into livestock diseases.
The DEFEND project working procedures were the focus of day two, which included an update on communications, dissemination and impact. The day also dedicated time to consider the participation and promotion of women in science, as this is one of the core values of the project. Female leadership is highly visible in DEFEND, with Dr Pip Beard co-ordinating the project and over 40% female representation at the meeting. To maintain this as a priority, DEFEND is planning further work to promote gender equality in science.
The research conducted by DEFEND is crucial for improving animal health globally through the control of these two crippling diseases, particularly as the ASF crisis continues to worsen across Europe and Asia. September’s meeting was determined a huge success, with feedback indicating that it was incredibly useful for knowledge exchange and progression across all of the work packages.
Defend is a Horizon 2020 project running from 2018 to 2023. This research receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon research and innovation programme under agreement No. 773701