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Research Centre to Improve Avian Health

12 September 2013

UK - A new National Avian Research Facility (NARF) at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush campus will provide a resource for both UK and international researchers studying chicken health and disease.

The centre wasofficiallly opened a national centre for poultry health and welfare this week by British Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts.

The £14-million facility, supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), the University of Edinburgh, Roslin Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, is classed as a national capability, due to its strategic importance for UK research.

Its research – dedicated to improving avian health – will have a significant impact on the UK’s economy, which has a multi-million pound poultry industry employing some 35,000 people.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Agricultural science and technology is one of the world’s fastest growing markets and we can’t allow the UK to be left behind in the global race. In an industry worth £4 billion to the UK economy employing around 35,000 people, the National Avian Research Facility will enhance the UK’s reputation as a world leader in this field.”

The cutting-edge building opened today by Mr Willetts is the first of two units that will form the facility. This new building is funded by a £5-million grant from BBSRC and investment from the Roslin Foundation and University of Edinburgh.

Researchers at the NARF will study a range of diseases that place a significant economic burden on the food industry, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. Chickens are a major food resource providing meat and eggs with a global annual production of over 52 billion chickens.

In addition to conventional avian accommodation, the new facilities will contain research laboratories for the production of genetically modified (GM) chickens. Scientists at The Roslin Institute have already used GM technology to produce chickens that are unable to spread bird flu.

Future development at the NARF will also include specially designed sterile areas, which, together with the conventional avian accommodation and research laboratories, will enable researchers to work to improve human health by reducing food borne diseases.

This vital UK poultry research is a collaboration between The Roslin Institute, which is incorporated with the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, and The Pirbright Institute in Surrey.

Both institutes are renowned for their research into animal diseases and are funded by the BBSRC.

Professor David Hume, Director of The Roslin Institute, added: “This is the first of two new buildings that will provide collaborative opportunities for The Roslin Institute and The Pirbright Institute and will endow the UK with a national resource that will lead the world in avian research.”

Professor Pete Kaiser, of The Roslin Institute, who will head the NARF, said: “Currently chicken is second only to pig in world production of meat as a source of food and to secure this vital resource, these facilities will deliver world-leading research to improve the health and welfare of these birds.”

Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, commented: “The poultry industry is already vital to the UK economy and will become even more important in order to meet the demands of feeding the world. In order to increase production sustainably, it is vital that we invest in research that will secure the health and welfare of poultry in the UK and across the world. This National Capability will provide infrastructure, services and world-leading expertise for the study of avian biology, genetics, infection and disease.”

Professor David Paton, Director of Science at The Pirbright Institute added: “The Pirbright Institute is delighted that the new facilities at Edinburgh will be able to house the unique chicken lines currently held at our Compton Laboratory. NARF will offer tremendous opportunities for us to work synergistically with colleagues in Scotland.”

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