The Pirbright Institute has been awarded £1M of the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council’s £4M Animal Health Research Club (ARC) funding to improve livestock health.
The BBSRC club funds research to improve our understanding of resistance in farmed animals to pests and disease, and the funded projects include work to combat costly livestock diseases, create safer vaccines, breed healthier livestock and investigate immune system interactions.
Taking place over the next three years, this first round of funding will support two collaborative research projects at Pirbright:
1. Selection Versus Mutation: Reducing the Risk of Vaccine Reversion
Pirbright’s Professor Paul Britton and Dr John Hammond are collaborating with Professor Daniel Haydon of the University of Glasgow to investigate ways to reduce the risk of vaccine reversion using infectious bronchitis virus as a model.
Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) causes severe disease outbreaks in chickens worldwide and although effective vaccines against IBV are available, they consist of live forms of the virus that have the potential to revert to a pathogenic form.
The exact processes that drive vaccine reversion are poorly understood but by using genetic sequencing technology the team will study changes at a molecular level to reveal how they change and to what extent individual viruses can mutate.
These results will inform a series of studies which could potentially identify ways to improve the vaccine design process and reduce the danger of vaccine strains reverting.
2. Restriction of avian viruses by host interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins
Dr Mark Fife from The Pirbright Institute is working with Professor Paul Kellam from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to identify proteins in chickens that could limit their susceptibility to highly pathogenic avian viruses.
Recent studies have demonstrated that a family of proteins produced in human cells can limit the entry and replication of several dangerous human viruses, including bird flu. The aim of this project is to build on this knowledge by identifying similar proteins in chickens. By analysing the genetic material of birds that differ in levels of resistance to avian influenza virus and other poultry viral diseases, the researchers hope to identify the proteins that give protection.
Once identified, poultry breeders will then be able to select the protective version of the genes encoding these proteins in future breeding programmes.
The ARC grants represent the first round of awards in a five-year partnership between BBSRC, The Scottish Government and a consortium of leading companies from the animal breeding, animal health and farming sectors.
The members pay a subscription fee which allows them to be involved in scoping out research themes and grant decision making.
Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “Livestock diseases cost UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year, pose welfare problems for farmed animals and negatively affect food security.
“By funding studies that take a broad look at some of the most prevalent and costly livestock diseases, the Animal Health Research Club will be able to deliver results to benefit farmers, animals and consumers.”
The announced projects represent the first of two rounds of funding from the Animal Health Research Club which will award £9.5M in total. The second call for funding through ARC will open on 18 October 2013, and close on 11 December 2013.
A workshop to promote the second call for applications, including the chance to discuss potential applications in confidential surgery sessions, will be held on 31 October 2013 in London.
For more information about ARC visit http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/arc
This announcement follows the launch of government’s agri-tech strategy, developed in partnership with industry to ensure that the UK can benefit from from agriculture’s opportunities:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-agricultural-technologies-strategy