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£12m grant for livestock and poultry disease research

By Carina Perkins , 22-Nov-2012

A UK research council has granted £12m in funding to research projects aimed at reducing the impact of some of the world’s most virulent livestock and poultry diseases.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has awarded grants of over £5.6m to a project looking at food-and-mouth disease controls, and over £6.2m to a project which will look at developing rapid responses to emerging poultry viruses.

The ‘Molecular Biology of FMDV Replication: Towards New Methods of FMDV Disease Control’ project will use new developments in molecular biology to investigate how the foot-and-mouth virus grows in cells, with the hope of improving diagnosis and developing new vaccines. The project will involve academics from the UK’s Pirbright Institute and the UK universities of St Andrews, Leeds, Edinburgh and Dundee.

Professor Terry Jackson of the Pirbright Institute said: “One of humanity’s biggest challenges in coming years will be to meet a growing demand for food. Animal diseases have a major impact on the productivity of the livestock industry, and safeguarding animal welfare will be a major component of maximising food production.”

The ‘Developing Rapid Responses to Emerging Virus Infections of Poultry’ project will study endemic and exotic poultry viruses, with the aim of improving isolation and diagnosis of emerging viruses, as well as speeding up the development of vaccines. Dr Michael Skinner of Imperial College London will lead a team comprising scientists from several UK universities, the Pirbright Institute and the BBSRC-funded Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh.

Skinner said: “One area of the research will help us to identify infections early. We are looking for distinct signatures that appear upon infection of cells in the lab. We can use these signatures to create means of detecting new viruses, especially in elite breeder flocks, where the UK and Europe has an important global commercial presence.

“The study of poultry viruses has made an important contribution to the development of the modern science of virology. We also need to understand the way viruses interact with chicken cells, because isolation and diagnosis of viruses is often conducted in eggs or avian cells and some important human vaccines, including those for seasonal and pandemic influenza, are produced in them.”

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