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$3M earmarked for Pirbright to coordinate world FMD reference labs

4 July 2012

The world reference laboratory for foot and mouth disease (FMD) at Pirbright has been acknowledged by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN) and OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) as the centre of global expertise on research, surveillance and diagnostics for FMD. Funding of $3M over five years will be provided to support the laboratory which is part of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded Institute for Animal Health.

This news follows the launch of the FAO and OIE global FMD control strategy last week and puts Pirbright at the centre of the first five-year phase of work.

At the launch of the strategy, Dr Jef Hammond, head of the Institute's World, EU, OIE and national reference laboratories for FMD, presented the global FMD situation to representatives of 100 OIE member countries, including many chief veterinary officers. He said "The initial phase of the strategy, which includes the funding for our lab, gives us an opportunity on a global scale to implement the measures that we know can work to control FMD. The FAO and OIE are promoting a coordinated approach across the world using effective diagnostics, vaccines and other control measures - many of which were developed here at Pirbright."

Dr Hammond plans to use the funds to create a dedicated team at Pirbright that will focus on delivering the aims of the global foot and mouth disease control strategy.

In the UK we have seen the devastating economic impact of FMD with the 2001 outbreak costing us at least £8Bn. And the potential impact on food security is enormous, particularly at a time when consumption of animal protein is rising and the global population is set to reach 9Bn by 2050. We are, however, fortunate in being currently FMD free.

Around the world FMD is endemic in many countries and the global losses are estimated at $5Bn per year. The World Bank has suggested a budget of just under $1Bn over five years to fund the initial programme of work.

Dr Bryan Charleston, head of the Livestock Viral Disease Programme at the Institute said "Over the 15 years covered by this strategy and with the funding committed there is a chance to make great strides not only in FMD but to improve veterinary services and control of many livestock diseases across the world.

"Ultimately we will need to have vaccines against FMD that are at least as effective as existing vaccines but are easier to manufacture and handle. At the Institute we are focussed on developing vaccines that can be produced on a large scale without the need for high containment facilities and that are stable at higher temperatures."

Dr Hammond added, "What a farmer in, say, Rwanda needs is a good, cheap vaccine that is stable without refrigeration and can go straight into his or her cattle to provide lasting protection. We hope that during the lifetime of this initiative we will be in a position to provide just such a vaccine."


About the Institute for Animal Health

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.

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