The AVTRW (Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research Work) recognises excellence in both veterinary teaching and in veterinary research by presenting awards to individuals who have made significant contributions to those fields. This year the Selbourne Award for contribution to research was presented to Dr Bryan Charleston of The Pirbright Institute in recognition of his outstanding work on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Dr Charleston, who leads the Livestock Viral Diseases Programme at Pirbright, researches immune responses of cattle and applies the knowledge gained to the development of improved disease control measures.
“It is a great honour to receive this award from the AVTRW, my first scientific presentation as a PhD student was at an AVTRW meeting in Scarborough,” says Dr Charleston. “I hope the association continues to thrive and foster the development of veterinary researchers.”
Dr Charleston has spent the last 10 years working on FMD transmission and the development of novel FMD vaccines. During this time he has led a series of transmission experiments in cattle which have demonstrated that the window of transmission between animals is shorter than originally thought and is closely associated with the onset of clinical signs. This discovery has important implications for the likely effectiveness of reactive disease control measures such as culling and suggests that efforts should be focussed on preclinical diagnosis and early clinical recognition for targeted control, rather than contiguous culling.
Studies on the pathogenesis and immune response to FMD infection and vaccination have also led to the discovery of a new site of virus persistence, with important implications for understanding why vaccines engender a much more transient protective response than is associated with recovery from infection. Their research on the development of novel vaccines has led to Dr Charleston and his team recently hitting the headlines. By creating synthetic shells of virus particles (capsids) which do not require live virus in their production, a FMD vaccine can be produced safely outside of high containment. Furthermore, these synthetic capsids have been stabilised to create a vaccine that does not require cold storage and has increased in vivo potency.
The Pirbright Institute’s Director of Science, Professor David Paton, says: “It is extremely pleasing that the UK’s leading society for veterinary researchers has recognised the significance of the ground breaking work done by Bryan and his colleagues at Pirbright. Control of FMD is a global public good that will help to secure livelihoods in developing countries as well as protecting the UK and other FMD-free countries from future disease incursions. Research of this kind is essential to equip us with the tools to make this a reality.”