A national centre for poultry health and welfare has been officially opened by the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts.
The National Avian Research Facility (NARF) at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush campus will provide a resource for both UK and international researchers studying chicken health and disease.
The £14 million facility is the first of two units funded by a £5M grant from BBSRC with investment from the Roslin Foundation, the University of Edinburgh and supported by the Wellcome Trust.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Agricultural science and technology is one of the world’s fastest growing markets and we can’t allow the UK to be left behind in the global race. In an industry worth £4 billion to the UK economy employing around 35,000 people, the National Avian Research Facility will enhance the UK’s reputation as a world leader in this field.”
Classed as a national capability, due to its strategic importance for UK research, NARF is a a collaboration between The Roslin Institute, which is incorporated with the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, and The Pirbright Institute.
Both Pirbright and Roslin are renowned for their research into animal diseases and are funded by the BBSRC.
Professor David Paton, Director of Science at The Pirbright Institute said: “The Pirbright Institute is delighted that the new facilities at Edinburgh will be able to house the unique chicken lines currently held at our Compton Laboratory. NARF will offer tremendous opportunities for us to work synergistically with colleagues in Scotland.”
Researchers at the NARF will study a range of avian diseases that place a significant economic burden on the food industry. Chickens are a major food resource providing meat and eggs with a global annual production of over 52 billion chickens.
In addition to conventional avian accommodation, the new facilities will contain research laboratories for the production of genetically modified (GM) chickens. Scientists at The Roslin Institute have already used GM technology to produce chickens that are unable to spread bird flu.
Future development at the NARF will enable the facility to house The Pirbright Institute’s unique collection of genetically defined chicken lines with differential resistance to various disease agents. These chicken lines, which are currently held at the Institute’s Compton Laboratory, are extremely valuable in deciphering genetic determinants of resistance and are available to all researchers.
Professor David Hume, Director of The Roslin Institute, added: “This is the first of two new buildings that will provide collaborative opportunities for The Roslin Institute and The Pirbright Institute and will endow the UK with a national resource that will lead the world in avian research.”