Pirbright attended the prestigious Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2022 last week, the first in-person event of its kind since 2019.
The event, which showcases cutting-edge science for people of all ages, featured only 16 exhibits this year and The Pirbright Institute was delighted to have been selected to attend.
Pirbright’s exhibit titled ‘Disease Detectives’ explained what scientists and detectives have in common and why scientists are key in preventing pandemics. The exhibit centred around the World Health Organisation’s priority diseases, a group of pathogens which pose the greatest risk to public health. We featured viruses studied at the Institute, such as Nipah, flu, SARS-CoV-2, Zika, and Rift Valley fever, along with ‘Disease X’, an as-yet undiscovered virus.
Disease Detectives was a fully interactive activity where visitors can step into the shoes of a scientist to unravel the mystery of what is causing a new disease outbreak. By using sophisticated, simulated tools like genetic sequencing, mathematical modelling and high-throughput diagnostics, participants could identify viruses and see their structure, discover how they spread and learn how to control them, with the overall aim of preventing the next pandemic.
This activity highlighted how crucial scientists are in identifying controlling and preventing new and emerging diseases, and how integral they are in the efforts to control a potential pandemic. Nowhere has this been more evident than over the last 3 years, and now members of the public can become Disease Detectives!
The stand also featured Bug Busters, a simple yet effective way to demonstrate how genetic engineering can be used to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases like Rift Valley fever, Dengue and Zika. Visitors built LEGO mosquitoes and then rebuilt them with changes in order to learn about different ways genetic modification can be used to prevent the spread of disease.
Dr Zoo’s Travelling Science Lab, a mini escape room fashioned as a bright pink Tardis, made an appearance at the weekend and we had queues of visitors wanting to have a go and beat the clock to escape a deadly virus. Participants took on the role of one of Dr Zoo’s laboratory assistants and used scientific know-how as virologists, vaccinologists, bioinformaticians and biosafety experts to crack codes to unravel the clues in under five minutes. Visitors competed against the clock and with each other and the fastest escape time featured at the top of a daily leader board.
Pirbright had something for all the family, and we enjoyed welcoming everyone to our stand. Professor John Hammond, head of the Immunogenetics group and Bioinformatics, Sequencing and Proteomics group said: “It was a privilege to be selected for the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition this year. This event showcased the knowledge and expertise of many of our scientists and is an excellent platform to share Pirbright’s research with people of all ages. We very much enjoyed engaging with the public during this week and highlighting the importance of our research in preventing and controlling viral diseases.”
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Notes to Editors
About The Pirbright Institute
The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.
The Institute is an independent company, limited by guarantee and a registered charity, governed by a Board of non-executive Trustee Directors.
With an annual income of £37 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £43.7 million strategic investment from BBSRC UKRI during 2021-2022, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.
For more information about The Pirbright Institute see: www.pirbright.ac.uk
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