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Farm animal genomics review recommends animal health priority

12 October 2005

A review set up by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), published today, has recommended strong continued investment in the area of farm animal genomics, and that animal health should be a leading future priority for BBSRC-funded research.

Professor Goodfellow, BBSRC Chief Executive, said, “BBSRC Council, the Research Council’s top decision making body, has welcomed the report and endorsed animal health and welfare as a key strategic area for BBSRC. BBSRC Council acknowledged that farm animal genomics will be important for progress in this area. The specific recommendations of the report will now be considered by BBSRC’s Strategy Board and Strategy Panels as we decide how best to move forward.”

Genomics is "scaled-up" version of genetics research in which scientists can look at many or all of the genes in an organism simultaneously. Farm animal genomics research contributes to our fundamental understanding of animal biology, particularly very complex processes involving the interaction of many genes, such as animals’ responses to infectious disease. There are, therefore, important potential outcomes for farm animal health and welfare, and also for human health, where animal models are appropriate. The review also considered other aspects of farm animal genetics research.

BBSRC recruited a broad panel of experts, chaired by Professor Cheryll Tickle of the University of Dundee and a member of BBSRC Council, and launched a wide-ranging consultation in summer 2004 that asked interested stakeholders, including industry, public and NGOs such as animal welfare groups, what they thought the priorities of research, utilisation and funding of farm animal genomics should be.

Professor Tickle said, “The consultation on farm animal genomics was the broadest ever commissioned by BBSRC. It asked fundamental and searching questions about the future direction of this research, and the panel have drawn heavily upon the many helpful responses in formulating this report.“

In tune with this report, BBSRC has recently earmarked £6M in its Delivery Plan for research on animal health, and associated welfare research, with a likely emphasis on the opportunities presented by genomics approaches. This builds upon a previous £8M investment in animal welfare research and training.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The review was presented to BBSRC Council at its meeting in July 2005.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

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