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£100M boost for animal health research

27 July 2009

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) today welcomed the announcement by the Government of over £100M investment by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in the redevelopment of the UK’s world leading animal disease research laboratories at Pirbright in Surrey.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC’s Chief Executive, said: "This new funding is a major boost for animal health research in the UK and great news for the UK scientific community. This redevelopment at Pirbright will strengthen our strategic capability to protect UK livestock and other animals – including people – from devastating diseases."

The Government’s decision follows extensive reviews of the UK’s needs for animal health research to help ensure animal welfare and contribute to global food security. The redevelopment at Pirbright will enable implementation of recommendations arising from the Anderson and Beringer ( reviews.

Professor Martin Shirley, IAH’s Director, said: "I am absolutely delighted by this news. It is a clear vote of confidence in the world class science carried out at IAH and recognises the increasing threats posed by animal diseases such as foot and mouth, bluetongue, and African swine fever, which could cause massive economic and social damage.

"The investment in state-of-the-art facilities at IAH will ensure the UK is in a position to control, contain and eradicate the threats of established and emerging diseases of animals. This is particularly important now as vector-borne diseases are spreading northwards as a consequence of the changing climate.

"IAH already attracts and trains the best scientific talent in livestock research across the globe and provision of the new laboratory will ensure that this remains the case."

IAH’s success in combating bluetongue is an example of the importance of this strategic research capability. IAH scientists accurately predicted the time and location of the arrival of this devastating disease in the UK. This enabled effective preparation and preventative vaccination (again based on IAH research) in 2008. An independent report by consultants DTZ estimated that IAH work on Bluetongue virus potentially saved the UK economy £485M and 10,000 jobs in 2008 alone.

The Pirbright redevelopment is expected to be completed in 2013.


Notes to editors

The investment comprises £92M from the Large Facilities Capital Fund (BIS) and the remainder from BBSRC’s capital allocation.

About IAH

The Institute for Animal Health (IAH) delivers high quality fundamental, strategic and applied science focussed on infectious diseases of farm animals, including some that also affect people. That knowledge is used to advance veterinary and medical science, and to enhance the sustainability of livestock farming. This includes improvements in animal welfare, safeguarding the supply and safety of food, and protecting public health and the environment.

In addition to research output IAH provides diagnostic services for a number of diseases and gives expert advice to the UK government and international agencies. IAH scientists communicate directly with farmers at meetings, including at the IAH farm (dairy, sheep and arable), via the farming press and the IAH website.

The institute has two campuses: Pirbright Laboratory (Surrey) and Compton Laboratory (Berkshire). IAH Pirbright provides nine world and regional laboratories (Reference Laboratories) for major diseases of farm animals, including bluetongue.


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 £450M 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. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382