Dr John Anderson MBE of the BBSRC’s Institute for Animal Health at Pirbright has this month (September) been made a Visiting Professor of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST ). This is in recognition of his longstanding involvement in the development of biotechnology for Africa, specifically in relation to the development and application of diagnostics for the control of infectious diseases of livestock. As a Visiting Professor at the NM-AIST, which is located in north-east Tanzania, John will mentor Master’s and PhD students as well as post-doctoral researchers, and help them to develop their careers.
"Having spent a major part of my career in Africa, resulting in a love and respect for Africa and African scientists, I am so honoured to accept the Visiting Professorship at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology," said Professor Anderson.
Professor Anderson’s long association with sub-Saharan Africa flourished when he was Head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Reference Laboratory for Rinderpest ( cattle plague ) at Pirbright, from which he retired in 2008. Rinderpest was the most devastating of diseases in cattle. It had ravaged livestock in Africa since its introduction in the late 19th century, greatly undermining rural life.
John was instrumental in the eradication of rinderpest through the Global Rinderpest Eradication Campaign , launched in 1994. Two key aspects of GREP were the widespread vaccination of cattle, and the development and application of rapid diagnostic tests. The latter were developed by John and his co-workers at Pirbright. The tests, which could easily be applied to thousands of animals in a short time, detected infected and previously infected cattle, and wild animals that could carry rinderpest virus, and were used for monitoring vaccination campaigns. In addition to developing the tests, John's team tested many thousands of samples at Pirbright, trained diagnosticians from Africa and Asia, and established diagnostic laboratories on those continents.
The NM-AIST is located near Arusha City, northern Tanzania, which acts as a focus for east Africa, especially Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. It is particularly fitting that John should be a visiting faculty member of the NM-AIST as the last stronghold of rinderpest virus had been in north-eastern Africa, including parts of Kenya and Uganda.