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Pirbright scientist becomes a Visiting Professor of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology

29 September 2011

Dr John Anderson MBE of the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) at Pirbright, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, has this month (September) been made a Visiting Professor of the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST). This is in recognition of his longstanding involvement in the development of biotechnology for Africa, specifically in relation to the development and application of diagnostics for the control of infectious diseases of livestock. As a Visiting Professor at the NM-AIST, which is located in north-east Tanzania, John will mentor Master's and PhD students as well as post-doctoral researchers, and help them to develop their careers.

John Anderson. Copyright: IAH

John Anderson.
Copyright: IAH

"Having spent a major part of my career in Africa, resulting in a love and respect for Africa and African scientists, I am so honoured to accept the Visiting Professorship at the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology," said Professor Anderson.

Professor Anderson's long association with sub-Saharan Africa flourished when he was Head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Reference Laboratory for Rinderpest (cattle plague) at Pirbright, from which he retired in 2008. Rinderpest was the most devastating of diseases in cattle. It had ravaged livestock in Africa since its introduction in the late 19th century , greatly undermining rural life.

John was instrumental in the eradication of rinderpest through the Global Rinderpest Eradication Campaign, launched in 1994. Two key aspects of GREP were the widespread vaccination of cattle, and the development and application of rapid diagnostic tests. The latter were developed by John and his co-workers at Pirbright. The tests, which could easily be applied to thousands of animals in a short time, detected infected and previously infected cattle, and wild animals that could carry rinderpest virus, and were used for monitoring vaccination campaigns. In addition to developing the tests, John's team tested many thousands of samples at Pirbright, trained diagnosticians from Africa and Asia, and established diagnostic laboratories on those continents.

NM-AIST institute. Copyright: IAH

NM-AIST institute. Copyright: IAH

The NM-AIST is located near Arusha City, northern Tanzania, which acts as a focus for east Africa, especially Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. It is particularly fitting that John should be a visiting faculty member of the NM-AIST as the last stronghold of rinderpest virus had been in north-eastern Africa, including parts of Kenya and Uganda.

ENDS

Notes to editors

Photographs of Professor Anderson and the medal given to him by the Food and Agriculture Organisation are available on request. Contact: Dr Dave Cavanagh, IAH Press Office: Tel: mobile 07789 941568; office 01635 577241. dave.cavanagh@bbsrc.ac.uk.

About IAH

The Institute for Animal Health, which received a total of £62.9M investment from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in 2010-11, is a world-leading centre of excellence for research into viruses of farm animals, principally cattle, poultry, sheep, pigs plus horses. Our research extends from fundamental to applied research, from genes all the way through to animal populations. It is our belief that better control of viral diseases requires a greater understanding of how each virus causes disease, how the immune systems of the farm animals respond to infection, and how the viruses spread, including those distributed by insects and other arthropods. In this way we contribute to the development of smarter, more effective vaccines; develop more discriminatory, user-friendly diagnostics; provide diagnostic services; and give expert knowledge to guide policy makers and farmers.

Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology

The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha is one in a network of Pan-African Institutes of Science and Technology located across the continent. These institutes, which are the proud brainchild of Nelson Mandela, envision to train and develop the next generation of African scientists and engineers with a view to impacting profoundly on the continent's development through the application of science, engineering and technology (SET).

NM-AIST is being developed to become a world-class research intensive training institution mainly for postgraduates and post-docs in SET related fields. Initially the fields of study covered by NM-AIST, taking advantage of the immense bio-diversity in countries forming its catchment area, will be life sciences and bio-engineering; mathematics, computational and communication science and engineering; water resources and environmental science and engineering; materials science and engineering and; sustainable energy science and engineering. For more information about NM-AIST see: www.nm-aist.ac.tz.

About Rinderpest

For information on rinderpest, the history of the disease and the steps taken to eradicate it see: www.pirbright.ac.uk/Disease/rinderpest.aspx, and listen to the Institute for Animal Health's Drs Anderson and Baron talking about it on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuG5_wdO050.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) declared the world to be free of rinderpest on 28 June 2011 www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/80894/icode/.

On 27th June the FAO awarded medals  www.pirbright.ac.uk/PressRelease/2011/2011_08.aspx to those who had played prominent roles in the eradication of the disease, including Professor Anderson and other colleagues and former colleagues of the Institute for Animal Health.

About BBSRC

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, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .