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Stirling joins new research network to prevent animal - and human - diseases

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Professor Randolph Richards
Professor Randolph Richards from the University of Stirling welcomed the establishment of the new UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network, set up with financial support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The University of Stirling is part of a new group of experts helping to fight animal diseases, some of which have the potential to spread to humans.

The UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network will draw together major UK research players to enhance the uptake of new technologies in order to design, develop and deliver safe and effective next-generation vaccines against new and re-emerging diseases.

The Network has been given £300,000 funding for the next five years from the UK-Government funded Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Vaccines represent one of the most cost effective ways of preventing and eradicating diseases and they are an important tool in the armoury against infectious diseases.  With approximately 60 per cent of animal diseases having the potential to cause human infections, these vaccines protect public health as well as enhancing animal welfare and sustainably improving livestock production to meet growing food demands.

Professor Randolph Richards from the University of Stirling said the institution was pleased to be part of the project.

He said: “Our Institute of Aquaculture of the University of Stirling has a long history of working with major pharmaceutical companies to produce fish vaccines. This has led to effective control of bacterial disease and a dramatic reduction in the use of antibiotics.

“There are now major challenges ahead with the development of antiviral and antiparasitic vaccines and the new Veterinary Vaccinology Network brings together UK-wide expertise to develop and apply the latest methodology in novel vaccine development.”

Building on the UK strength in veterinary science, advances in biotechnology, and the biological revolution in new technologies (such as next generation DNA sequencing and synthetic biology), there are opportunities for researchers to create new veterinary vaccines and increase efficient development pathways for them.

Dr Bryan Charleston, head of the Livestock Viral Diseases Programme at The Pirbright Institute is co-ordinator of the new Network Coordinator.

He said: “There is huge potential to improve animal welfare, human health, and the economic performance of the UK livestock industries by developing new vaccines for widespread infectious diseases caused by parasites, bacteria and viruses. The network will facilitate and promote coordination of research in this important field to generate the scientific knowledge and discoveries needed for a step change in veterinary vaccinology.”

BBSRC has fostered the multi-disciplinary community in order to form a coherent research agenda in this area. With the UK livestock industry (including cows, pigs, sheep, poultry and fish) estimated to have an annual value of over £14bn in 2013, the research will have direct benefits for the UK economy.

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s Science Director, said: “We have an excellent breadth of skills in this area across the UK but a strategic, concerted effort is required to improve animal health, ensure global food security and reduce the impact of animal diseases on public health. The network will advance the field by sharing resources, encouraging collaboration between experts in veterinary and medical sciences, and establishing links with industry.”

In addition to the University of Stirling, the UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network includes experts from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Cambridge Veterinary School, Edinburgh University, Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Moredun Research Institute, Oxford University, The Pirbright Institute, The Roslin Institute and The Royal Veterinary College.

Notes for editors
Background information

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The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, the Council supports research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people it funds are helping society to meet major challenges, such as food security, green energy and industries, and living healthier, longer lives. The Council’s investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

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