Professor Randolph Richards of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture is one of seven academic members of the new Animal Health Research Club (ARC) steering committee, established to unite farmers, breeders and pharmaceutical companies to help combat the threat of animal disease.
The ARC will invest around £9.5 million in research projects to improve the resistance of livestock and farmed fish to pests and disease.
Farm animals suffer from a range of diseases that may reduce their welfare and undermine the sustainability of UK farming. Examples of this are the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 - which is estimated to have cost the UK economy billions of pounds - and the steady drip of endemic diseases which cost farmers hundreds of millions of pounds each year.
The partners hope that by drawing on the complementary expertise of academia and industry the ARC will spark new ideas for keeping animals healthy and free from disease.
Professor Richards says: “Control of disease is an essential element of modern farming practice. Whether they be cattle, sheep, poultry or fish, farm animals are affected by a diverse range of viruses, bacteria and parasites. To combat these, the best science must be applied in the development of vaccines and in the selection of resistant stock in breeding programmes.
“The bringing together of farming companies, major pharmaceutical industries and academia in the ARC will ensure maximum impact and relevance of research, delivering benefits for everyone from salmon farmers to cattle breeders.”
The ARC is led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional funding from 12 company members and the Scottish Government. As well as funding research, some of the money will be used to train the next generation of animal health researchers and to support the sharing and dissemination of findings and ideas.