£2.7 million for research to protect farmed animals

Published: 6 April 2015

Four out of eight studies to benefit from the funding involve researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute.

Studies to understand viruses that cause major losses in the pig and poultry industry will benefit from the funding.

Scientists will also investigate the genetics of the chicken’s immune response, to help devise strategies that will enable farmers to breed birds that are more resistant to diseases.

Another project will focus on a parasite that is a major cause of gut diseases in farmed cattle worldwide.

The funding was announced by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council as part of a £6 million investment from the Animal Health Research Club.

Professor David Hume, Director of the Roslin Institute, said: "These awards reflect the strengths of Roslin in the area of animal health, and our commitment to working with industry to reduce the burden of endemic diseases."

The Animal Health Research Club is a consortium between BBSRC, the Scottish Government and leading companies from the animal breeding, animal health and farming sectors.

The projects from The Roslin Institute that received funding are:

Genetics of host responses to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus - £844,979
Professor Alan Archibald, Professor Stephen Bishop, Dr Tahar Ait-Ali and Professor Tanja Opriessnig

This study will identify genetic markers that are associated with differences in susceptibility to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), a viral disease of pigs that causes major economic losses. The goal is to develop tools that will help select pigs that are more resistant to the disease for use in breeding, reducing the impact of the virus in breeding herds.

Macrophage Biology and Disease Susceptibility in Poultry - £951,944
Professor David Hume, Professor David Burt, Dr Lonneke Vervelde, Professor Helen Sang and Professor Peter Kaiser

Researchers have identified a protein in birds called CSF-1 which controls the numbers of a type of cell called macrophages that are part of the immune system. The study will test the ability of this protein to induce changes in growth and development of the immune system, and test the possibility that it could improve both innate disease resistance and the efficacy of existing and future vaccines. It also aims to identify genetic variations in the function of macrophages that could provide the basis for breeding birds with improved resistance to common pathogens.

Host factors in determining resistance to cryptosporidiosis in cattle - £506,989
Dr Liam Morrison, Dr Neil Mabbott and Dr Jayne Hope
(In collaboration with Professor Elisabeth Innes, Dr Frank Katzer and Dr Emily Jane Hotchkiss from Moredun Research Institute and Dr Mintu Nath, The James Hutton Institute)

This project will provide the fullest exploration yet of how cattle resist infection with a type of parasite that is a major cause of intestinal disease in farmed livestock, called Cryptosporidium. Improved understanding of immune response in cattle will provide important knowledge to support the development of vaccines to aid disease prevention and the identification of relevant biomarkers that will enable selective breeding programmes to improve resilience.

Towards control of Infectious bronchitis virus; understanding cross-protection and the genetic plasticity of IBV - £499,647
Dr Lonneke Vervelde, Professor Peter Kaiser (In collaboration with Professor Paul Britton, The Pirbright Institute)

This study aims to develop improved vaccines for infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), an endemic virus that causes severe disease outbreaks in chickens worldwide. Researchers will determine why certain existing vaccines do not protect birds from different strains of the virus and how current vaccines may be used more efficiently. In addition the researchers will determine how pressure on the virus from the bird’s immune responses might drive the virus to change or mutate.

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