On 15 January 2020 The Pirbright Institute hosted Newton Fund Swine and Poultry Research Initiative delegates from the UK, China, Thailand and the Philippines. The projects funded through the initiative have been underway for almost two years and the meeting served as part of a midway point workshop.
The delegates spent the first two days of the workshop at a conference centre, where all project teams had the opportunity to present their progress and key findings to date and to collectively think about future research directions to support the pig and poultry sector, with the goal of ensuring future food safety and security and improved welfare for the partner countries.
On arriving at Pirbright, the visitors were given a welcome and overview of the Institute by Professor Venugopal Nair OBE, followed by a talk from Dr Simon Carpenter that outlined Pirbright’s capabilities. Scientific talks were given by Dr Holly Shelton, Head of the Influenza Viruses Group, Dr Shahriar Behboudi, Head of the Avian Immunology Group and Dr Ana Reis, a senior postdoctoral researcher in the African Swine Fever Virus Group.
Following the talks, the visitors were taken on a tour of the site that included the state-of-art scientific facilities in the BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building, the BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre: The Jenner Building, the Philip Mellor Insectary as well as other areas.
Ioanna Kostaki, Newton Fund programme manager for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said: “We brought the delegates to Pirbright for the mid-term workshop because we wanted our national and international collaborators to visit a UK research flagship where they could see innovative research supported by the Newton Fund and the state-of-the-art facilities that provide capacity for this research and supply the UK with a National Capability.”
The Newton Fund supports collaborative research between UK and overseas partners that will find solutions to strategically important economic development challenges in overseas partner countries and forms part of the UK’s government official development assistance (ODA) budget.
Professor Venugopal Nair OBE, Head of the Viral Oncogenesis Group and a shortlisted finalist for the 2019 Newton Prize, said: “Newton Fund support is very important for our research programme, not only for the Swine and Poultry Research Initiative, but also for several other joint research programmes that bring together the best scientists from UK and collaborating countries to tackle major animal disease challenges critical for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”
Investigators at Pirbright lead 3 of the 11 projects under the Newton Fund Swine and Poultry Research Initiative, these are:
- Understanding antigenic diversity, zoonotic potential and immunological prevention of avian influenza viruses affecting poultry; led by Professor Munir Iqbal, Head of the Avian Influenza Group at Pirbright and Dr Yipeng Sun (China)
- Broadly protective vaccines for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and swine influenza virus infections; led by Dr Elma Tchilian, Head of the Mucosal Immunology Group at Pirbright and Nanchaya Wanasen (Thailand)
- UK-China partnership on Global Food Security: Combating avian tumour diseases for sustainable poultry production; led by Dr Yongxiu Yao, senior postdoctoral scientist in the Viral Oncogenesis Group and Professor Aijian Qin (China)
Pigs and poultry remain the fastest growing livestock subsectors in the meat production industry, with demand for pigs expected to increase by 38 percent, and poultry, by 104 percent, in comparison to current production levels. Projects supported by the Newton Fund are jointly designed between UK and overseas researchers to address real world challenges currently faced by the pig and poultry industry, with the aim to support these sectors and ensure sustainable, safe, healthy and resilient food production.
These projects include the development of new diagnostic devices and vaccines that are designed to provide increased capacity to prevent and control swine and poultry diseases. Through these innovative advances the Newton Fund Swine and Poultry Initiative projects will have a global impact on animal health as well as food safety and security.
Photo: Professor Venugopal Nair OBE addresses delegates of the Newton Fund Swine and Poultry Research Initiative during their visit to The Pirbright Institute on 15 January 2020.