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BBSRC scientist awarded first Rooker prize

8 September 2009

Dr Simon Carpenter from the Institute for Animal Health, an institute of BBSRC, has been awarded the first Rooker prize. The new award is an international annual prize for individuals who have made a significant contribution to livestock animal health by way of research.

Dr Carpenter has been awarded the prize by an international award committee for his research on the biting midges that spread bluetongue virus. The research by Dr Carpenter and colleagues has already been shown to have saved the UK economy £485M and prevented the loss of 10,000 agricultural jobs during the 2007 bluetongue outbreak.

Dr Carpenter, who is Head of the Entomology/Modelling Group within the Vector-borne Diseases Programme at the IAH’s Pirbright Laboratory, received his award during the Veterinary Laboratory Agency Conference held at the Royal Holloway, University of London, Surrey (2-4 September). He presented a lecture entitled 'The antennae, shoot the antennae! The role of entomology during arboviral outbreaks'. Arboviruses are viruses that are spread by arthropods, such as midges and ticks.

Dr Carpenter said “The 2007 incursion of bluetongue virus into the UK presented many unique problems. This award is a reflection of the professionalism and dedication of the people in the vector-borne disease programme at IAH as a whole.”

“As an entomologist, it is a rare honour to receive such an award, and is a reflection of the multidisciplinary nature of science being used within IAH to combat such incursions.”

“Through the activities of my research group and the vector-borne disease programme at IAH as a whole, I aspire to maintain the UK’s current position as world leaders in this field, established by my predecessors, and to continue to communicate my science effectively with policy makers and stakeholders at both an EU and UK level.”

Much of Dr Carpenter’s research has been on the Culicoides biting midges that act as carriers (vectors) of bluetongue virus, transmitting it amongst ruminants. He co-ordinated field investigations of the various Culicoides midge species within several European countries as well as the UK. Together with estimations of bluetongue virus replication temperature limits (bluetongue virus replication in midges ceases below 12-15°C, and speeds up as the environmental temperature increases), Dr Carpenter and colleagues used the field data to establish ‘vector-free’ and ‘transmission free periods’ for bluetongue virus during the UK winter of 2007/8, following the first incursion of the virus into Britain in August 2007. This facilitated a relaxation of animal movements and saved UK farming stakeholders millions of pounds in trade.

Earlier IAH studies had revealed that in southern Europe bluetongue virus was being spread not solely by Culicoides imicola – the species of midge that had brought the virus from Africa – but also by Culicoides midge species that were native to Europe. Experiments within the IAH showed that bluetongue virus could grow well in Culicoides midges found in northern Europe. Together this information led Dr Carpenter and colleagues to predict that bluetongue would one day to spread to northern Europe. This is indeed what happened, in 2006. In the following year bluetongue virus-infected midges were blown across the North Sea, and subsequently infected ruminants in East Anglia.

ENDS

About the Rooker prize

The Rooker prize is a newly established international annual prize for individuals who have made a significant contribution to livestock animal health by way of research. The winner is chosen by an international selection committee. The prize is named after Lord Rooker, a Life Peer in the House of Lords, and a former Minister of State for Defra (2006-2008).

About Dr Simon Carpenter

Dr Simon Carpenter, of the Institute for Animal Health, is Head of the Entomology/Modelling Group within the Vector-borne Diseases Programme at the IAH’s Pirbright Laboratory. The research of the programme is supported by grants from the BBSRC, Defra, and the European Commission.

About IAH

The Institute for Animal Health delivers high quality fundamental, strategic and applied science focussed on infectious diseases of farm animals. This knowledge is used to advance veterinary science, and to enhance the sustainability of livestock farming and food security. In addition to research output, the IAH provides diagnostic services for a number of diseases and gives expert advice to the UK government and international agencies. IAH has two laboratories – Compton in Berkshire working on endemic animal diseases and Pirbright in Surrey working on exotic animal diseases.

IAH is an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

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 £450 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. 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.

External contact

Dr Dave Cavanagh, IAH Press office

tel: 01635 577241
mob: 07789 941568

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382