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Minister marks milestones in new £100M+ world-class laboratory build

24 October 2011

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, today led a ceremony to mark milestones in construction of a brand new high containment facility at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) in Pirbright, Surrey. He said "The Government has made significant investment in this world-class facility, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of research into animal diseases. This brings benefits for animal and human health, the agricultural industry and global food security. I am very impressed by the outstanding progress being made here at Pirbright."

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts at the milestones ceremony

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts at the milestones ceremony.

Staff from IAH and construction staff from national contractor Shepherd Construction Ltd were joined this afternoon by guests to take part in a traditional 'topping out' ceremony. The ceremonial signing of a steel beam by the Minister; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Chief Executive, Professor Douglas Kell; IAH Director, Professor John Fazakerley; and other invited VIP's was preceded by speeches celebrating the progress of the project and highlighting the role that the Institute and the new facility will play in protecting the UK from viral diseases of farmed animals.

Professor Kell said "We at BBSRC are tremendously proud to be supporting the excellent and vital work done at the Institute for Animal Health. With the backing of the department for Business Innovation and Skills we have been able to fund this strategically important project, which in total exceeds 100 million pounds. This will enable the institute to continue its ground-breaking and world-changing research into important diseases of livestock such as foot-and-mouth, bluetongue, and African swine fever."

The project is currently on time and within budget and the building with its central hub and three wings is visibly taking shape.

Professor Fazakerley said "This new building is part of an ambitious vision for the Institute, which will provide our world-class researchers with unrivalled facilities to take forward their research into some of the most economically and socially important viruses on the planet.

"The lab will house over 150 highly-skilled scientists and support staff in a unique facility that includes brand-new and improved approaches to high containment. These approaches have been developed through an excellent programme of research and development running alongside the build."

IAH is a world-leading centre of excellence for research into viral diseases of livestock. The Institute receives strategic funding from BBSRC, which is also the Institute's corporate trustee.

This centre requires world-class facilities and will benefit from this rebuilding of laboratory space. In July 2009 it was announced that Pirbright would be redeveloped with funding from BBSRC and the department for Business Innovation and Skills Large Facilities Capital Fund.

The new lab will be the centre of what will eventually form a globally important campus bringing together unique infrastructure, leading scientists, support for collaboration and space to nurture and grow synergistic small and medium enterprises. This will provide a unique national capability that will be an unrivalled resource for researchers and industry across the UK animal health sector and beyond. IAH is already at the centre of many international networks and partnerships and the envisioned campus can support and strengthen such collaborations.



These images are protected by copyright law and may be used with acknowledgement.

About the new laboratory

Over 150 scientists and other staff will work in the new laboratory, which comprises a central hub with north, east and west wings.

The building will have an overall floor area of 11065 square metres and is constructed mainly from steel and concrete.

Research at IAH underpins practical disease control

  • IAH developed vaccines against Marek's disease and coccicidiosis - important diseases of poultry
  • Researchers at IAH are gaining vital insights into foot-and-mouth disease, which is the most infectious viral disease known. A recent paper, published in the journal Science, showed results that are now being considered by IAH and Defra to see if it is possible to reduce the number of animals culled during a foot-and-mouth outbreak. The institute are also developing the next generation of foot-and-mouth disease vaccines
  • According to independent estimates, IAH advice to policymakers during the 2007 Bluetongue virus outbreak saved the UK over £450M and protected more than 10,000 jobs in the rural economy
  • IAH scientists had a leading and internationally-recognised role in the UN programme to eradicate Rinderpest - only the second virus ever to have been eradicated
  • There are new rapid diagnostics for detecting infectious diseases in animals thanks to IAH research and development with partner companies
  • A vaccine for African Swine Fever is currently in development, and IAH is the main diagnostic laboratory for this disease for Defra and on behalf of the World Organisation for Animal Health
  • IAH has reference laboratories that provide diagnostic services, early warning, and advice on 11 exotic animal diseases. Clients include UK and other governments, industry bodies, and international agencies

About IAH

The Institute for Animal Health, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is a world-leading centre of excellence for research into viruses of farm animals, principally cattle, poultry, sheep and pigs, plus horses, and viruses which spread from animals to humans. 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.


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: .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: .

External contact

Dave Cavanagh, IAH Press Office

tel: 01635 577241
mob: 07789 941568