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Denmark Strengthens Relations with China in Animal Science

19 March 2013

DENMARK - A grant from the Villum Foundation strengthens the scientific collaboration with China – and will benefit scientists and PhD students alike.

Because of the concern for public health, there is intense focus on the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry. This is why the agricultural industry and scientists have spent many years trying to find alternative ways and means of protecting livestock against disease – not at least bowel diseases in pigs and poultry.

There is considerable expertise at Aarhus University in the intestinal health and biology of farm animals, but the scientists would like to collaborate with Chinese scientists who also have considerable knowledge in this area. A donation to the tune of DKK 300,000 from the Villum Foundation’s Velux Visiting Professor Programme 2013-2014 has now enabled this collaboration.

A distinguished Chinese scientist, professor Wei-Yun Zhu, who is leader of the Laboratory of Gastrointestinal Microbiology at Nanjing Agricultural University, will be visiting Aarhus University’s agricultural research facilities at Foulum. Professor Zhu works on gut flora in relation to animal nutrition, and during her stay at Aarhus University she will also be teaching on an international PhD course arranged by scientists from the Department of Animal Science.

Collaboration on intestinal health

The seeds for the collaboration were established already three years ago at the Department of Animal Science.

"At that time we received a grant from the Aarhus University Research Foundation for the establishment of a research platform for gut biology and health with the purpose of forging collaboration across departments and faculties. One of the activities of the platform was an international seminar held in October 2011 with participation of leading international speakers – including professor Zhu," said research section manager Charlotte Lauridsen from the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University.

At the international seminar Professor Zhu also took part in an internal workshop in Foulum where further connections were established. A colleague of Charlotte Lauridsen, senior scientist Ole Højberg, thus subsequently participated as a speaker at an international workshop "Interplay of Microbiota and Gut Function in Pigs" at Nanjing Agricultural University in November 2012, organised by Professor Zhu.

PhD course on gut biology and health

More specifically, the collaboration with Professor Zhu will involve the conduction of a PhD course "Gut Biology and Health", where she will provide some of the teaching. The course will be held for the first time in August 2013 and is expected to be repeated the following year. The grant from the Villum Foundation will cover the costs of lending professor Zhu to Denmark both this year and the next.

"It will undoubtedly strengthen our collaboration with China. When she is here, she will also have the opportunity to discourse with our other PhD students and discuss different research activities with us. I will also be taking her to the annual meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) in Nantes, France," said Ms Lauridsen, to which Professor Zhu is an invited speaker at the session Modulation of the immune defence to cope with antibiotic use reduction, which is arranged by the Commission of Pig Production at EAAP, where Ms Lauridsen is the vice-president.

This is not the first time that the Department of Animal Science has a working relationship with China. The department has participated in the network project Bridging veterinary and animal science in Aarhus University, Nanjing Agricultural University and China Agricultural University focusing on the basis for sustainable livestock production which was financed by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation. In this connection, a delegation comprising the head of the department Klaus Lønne Ingvartsen and a number of senior scientists visited the Chinese agricultural universities.

"There is mutual interest in our work," said head of department Klaus Lønne Ingvartsen. "The project has been the background for workshops in China in 2011 where the foundation was laid for collaboration with two top universities within our research areas, including Nanjing Agricultural University. It is therefore pleasing that we can extend our collaboration with Nanjing Agricultural University with the donation from the Villum Foundation for collaboration with Professor Zhu."

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