A rising global population combined with climate change and pressure on vital resources threaten global food security and an urgent response is needed. Delivering global food security means providing a sustainable, secure supply of good quality food from less land and with more efficient use of inputs. Food security is a key strategic priority for BBSRC (see related links) and we are contributors to Global Food Security (see external links), a partnership bringing together the food related research interests of the relevant Research Councils, Government Departments, Devolved Governments and Executive Agencies.
Through discussions with industry, animal health has been identified as an area where targeted research is required. The cost of animal diseases to the UK economy can be very high, for example the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth cost the UK £8Bn and the long-term risk of dealing with exotic diseases costs UK industry approximately £100M per year. Resistance to disease has been highlighted as a priority area where increased investment in pre-competitive, innovative and industrially relevant research activity would underpin the capacity for the sector to tackle endemic and emerging pest and disease problems.
BBSRC established an Animal Health Research Club (ARC) to bring together industry and the research community to support research that improves our understanding of resistance to pests and diseases in farmed animals.
ARC has 12 company members who contributed to funding research and take part in directing the Club's activities. £4M (of a total £9.5M) was awarded in the first call for proposals, to support 7 research projects spread across the ARC remit. Approximately £5.5M will be awarded through the second call for proposals:
- £965k - Industrial membership subscriptions
- £500k - The Scottish Government
- £8M - BBSRC
The focus of ARC research is on improving the resistance of farmed animals to pests and disease organisms (this includes cattle for beef and dairy, pigs, sheep, poultry and salmon). Projects supported through ARC will address key challenges to industry through pre-competitive, innovative and excellent science.
Endemic and emerging diseases coupled with climate change could lead to new and more complex challenges. Research on resistance to pests and diseases will help to ensure:
- A secure supply of sufficient, safe and nutritious food for the benefit of the UK and internationally
- Contribute to reduced environmental impact and improved animal welfare
ARC's research challenges are:
- Understanding the basis of resistance/resilience to pests and diseases in farmed animal species
- Developing novel tools for defining disease biomarkers and phenotypes to inform breeding strategies for subclinical diseases and increased disease resistance
- Understanding variation in vaccine responsiveness, immuno-competence at different developmental stages and disease outcomes
- Determining the effects of selection for production traits on immune function