Susan Baigent has worked at The Pirbright Institute (formerly The Institute for Animal Health) since 1991. She obtained her PhD from the University of Bristol in 1995, for research conducted at the Institute on ‘The immunological basis of genetic resistance of chickens to Marek’s disease’.
Following a first post-doctoral position researching sensitivity of avian influenza viruses to the drug zanamivir, Susan returned to working on Marek’s disease in 2002 in Professor Venugopal Nair’s Avian Oncogenic Virus Group, which includes the OIE Marek’s disease reference laboratory.
Susan’s broad research interest is in protection of chickens against Marek’s disease by vaccination. She has developed molecular methods to test chickens for the presence of the vaccine virus strains, and pathogenic virus strains by testing feather samples, so allowing non-invasive testing of chickens. These tests have now been adopted by international poultry companies. She also contributed to studies which demonstrated that vaccination against Marek’s disease is in part responsible for the emergence and persistence of more pathogenic strains of the virus. Her research has resulted in 20 first-author publications, she was the recipient of the ‘Bart Rispens Research Award’ in 2009, and a finalist in the BBSRC Innovator of the Year Award in 2015.
Susan now works part-time in the Avian Oncogenic Virus Group. She is responsible for diagnostic testing of avian samples for Marek’s disease. She also organises the Institute’s annual Poultry Health Course, is Chairperson of the UK Poultry Disease group, and Secretary of the Houghton Trust.