Poultry health and welfare, a key factor in a multi-billion pound food industry, will be boosted with the building of a new research centre.
Work has already begun on the £14M National Avian Research Facility (NARF) at the University of Edinburgh's Easter Bush campus.
Its resources will be made available to both national and international researchers studying issues affecting avian health, such as the spread of infections. This is paramount in an industry worth five per cent of the world-market food value and rising demand for food from a growing population.
Research could range from looking at diseases that have a huge economic burden on the industry, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella, to developing vaccines against infections.
The initiative involves collaboration between The Pirbright Institute and The Roslin Institute, which is incorporated with the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Both institutes are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and construction of the facility, which is due to be completed late 2014, is being funded by the BBSRC, Roslin Foundation and University of Edinburgh.
Key aims for the facility include addressing the need for improved sustainability in poultry production in light of an increasing global population and benefitting human health through reducing food-borne diseases.
Professor David Hume, Director of The Roslin Institute, said: "This build is a key component of the on-going development of the Easter Bush Campus and reflects the growing portfolio of research that The Roslin Institute is undertaking with the aim of improving the health and welfare of chickens."
The NARF will include sterile areas, known as specified-pathogen-free, for poultry, with different genetic compositions, that are resistant to viruses, bacteria and parasites. It will also include conventional avian accommodation as well as laboratories for research.
Professor Pete Kaiser, of The Roslin Institute, who will head up the NARF, said, "Chicken is a production animal of major economic importance around the world with 50 billion birds being bred every year. This facility will provide The Roslin Institute and its partners with an outstanding environment for undertaking the studies that will lead to major improvements in poultry health and welfare."
The facility will enhance research already carried out at The Roslin Institute, such as studies in avian immunology, vaccine development and the role that genes play in disease resistance. Researchers from The Roslin Institute were also part of a team of UK scientists that produced genetically modified chickens unable to spread bird flu.
Professor John Fazakerley, Director of The Pirbright Institute said: "Infectious diseases are a major threat to the poultry industry. This new facility at Roslin, along with new facilities being built at Pirbright, will allow researchers at these two institutes and their collaborators, nationally and internationally, to undertake the scientific research needed to protect the poultry industry from infectious diseases and to help secure global food supplies."
The construction project is being undertaken by Barr Construction, which is one of the UK's leading design, construction and industrial manufacturing companies.
Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "BBSRC is investing in research and infrastructure that will help to secure the future of the UK's poultry industry. Of the £85Bn global poultry market, around 50 per cent of breeding chickens come from genetic stock developed in the UK.
"The construction of new poultry facilities and research labs at The Roslin Institute, together with new facilities for poultry virology to be built at The Pirbright Institute, provides cutting-edge infrastructure for research into poultry health and poultry production.
"Combined with National Capability funding to underpin vital research at the National Avian Research Facility, this offers stronger foundations for our world-leading poultry research."