Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), officially opened The Biggs Avian Research Building today (23 February 2023) at The Pirbright Institute in Surrey.
The Biggs Avian Research Building will increase the Institute’s capacity to undertake research into infectious diseases of poultry, in both endemic and exotic diseases. This research is key to not only improving the health and welfare of poultry, but also protecting both UK and global food security. This facility will continue to support Pirbright research programmes including the improvement of current vaccines and creation of vaccines where they don’t currently exist, including paving the way for universal vaccines against several different strains of virus such as avian influenza.
Construction of The Biggs Avian Research Building was part of a £350m strategic capital investment from government through BBSRC as part of its continued commitment to support the UK’s world-leading position in bioscience and innovation through development of the Pirbright campus.
The new poultry facility has been designed and constructed to give birds more space and includes a bespoke LED blend lighting system that follows a diurnal dawn to dusk cycle. The lighting system will allow the birds to exhibit natural behaviours, therefore refining their experience and maximising their welfare.
Supporting The Biggs Avian Research Building is a highly robust engineering system and procedural biosafety controls both ensuring the safety of the people working within the facility and the environment outside.
The Biggs Avian Research Building is named in recognition of the eminent poultry scientist, Professor Peter Biggs, who worked at the Houghton Grange site in Cambridgeshire and which subsequently became part of the Institute for Animal Health. Professor Biggs was the first to isolate a herpesvirus, the causative agent of Marek’s disease, and was awarded a CBE in 1987.
Professor Bryan Charleston, Director of The Pirbright Institute said “This building provides an important new facility for the UK and International partners to study important diseases of poultry to develop measures to prevent disease and improve welfare and productivity”.
On the new facility, Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of BBSRC said "The UK is a world leader in its scientific response to disease outbreaks such as avian influenza and The Biggs Avian Research Building will bolster the UK's position as a global leader in this crucial area of bioscience.
“As a front runner in the study of diseases like avian influenza, it is mission critical that staff at The Pirbright Institute have the right infrastructure and facilities needed to deliver world-class research outcomes for the benefit of the UK and our international partners and The Biggs Avian Research Building does just that."
Image caption: (Top) Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of BBSRC and Director of The Pirbright Institute Professor Bryan Charleston unveiling the commemorative building sign; (bottom) commemorative sign for The Biggs Avian Research Facility at The Pirbright Institute. Credit: Paul Stead Photography.