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Roslin wins £2.4M of research funding to improve the health of livestock

The Roslin Institute is one of the successful organisations to benefit from newly announced funding.

The Roslin Institute's total funding of £2.4 million (including industry support) is part of the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council's Animal Health Research Club (ARC) award, which will support £4M of world-leading UK research to improve the health of farmed animals including sheep, pigs, cows and poultry.

The club funds research to improve our understanding of resistance in farmed animals to pests and disease, and the funded projects include work to combat costly livestock diseases, create safer vaccines, breed healthier livestock and investigate immune system interactions.

The funded projects will take place during the next three years at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh and our partner The Pirbright Institute (also BBSRC strategically-funded) as well as other of our partners including University of Glasgow, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick, Royal Veterinary College, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Scotland's Rural College (a member of the Easter Bush Research Consortium along with The Roslin Institute.

The grants represent the first round of awards in a five-year partnership between BBSRC, The Scottish Government and a consortium of leading companies from the animal breeding, animal health and farming sectors including Aviagen, BPEX, Centre for Dairy Information, Cobb, DairyCo, EBLEX, Genus, Merial, Moredun Scientific, MSD Animal Health, the Scottish Salmon Producer's Organisation and Zoetis.

The ARC Industry members pay a subscription fee which allows them to be involved in remit formation and grant decision making.

Livestock diseases cost UK farmers and the wider economy millions of pounds a year, pose welfare problems for farmed animals and negatively affect food security.

By funding studies that take a broad look at some of the most prevalent and costly livestock diseases, the Animal Health Research Club will be able to deliver results to benefit farmers, animals and consumers.

Dr Celia CaulcottBBSRC Director of Innovation and Skills

The Roslin Institute's projects are described below.



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Engineering resistance to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus - £540,127 plus £240,000 from Genus and £63,000 from Recombinetics Inc

Professor Alan Archibald, Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Dr Simon Lillico and Dr Tahar Ait-Ali from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is a viral disease of pigs that causes major economic losses. The virus accounts for around a third of infectious disease costs to the US pig industry, approximately $600M annually. It is the most costly disease to the European pig industry.

Improving pigs' resistance to PPRS infection through selected breeding is a difficult process. Studies have shown a receptor called SRCR CD163 plays a crucial role as the PRRS virus enters macrophages (cells of the immune system) during infection. To investigate if resistance to PRRS can be genetically engineered in pigs the researchers will focus on the manipulation of the CD163 gene.


Genomic Selection for Bovine Tuberculosis Resistance in Dairy Cows - £829,790

Professors Liz Glass, Stephen Bishop and John Woolliams from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh working with Professor Michael Coffey from Scotland's Rural College.

The bacterium Mycobacterium bovis causes bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and has a major economic, trade, health and welfare impacts on the cattle industry as well as posing a risk to humans and other animals. Cattle differ genetically in their risk of bTB, creating the possibility of genetic selection for decreased risk of infection.

Researchers will use large datasets from cattle herds in the UK and Republic of Ireland to develop genomic predictors of bTB infection, which could be used to breed cattle for bTB resistance. They will ensure that selection for bTB resistance is not detrimental to other desirable traits by determining the genetic relationship of bTB resistance with milk production and other economically important features. By sequencing the genomes of individual cattle they hope to pinpoint the exact genetic changes which cause bTB resistance, improving the accuracy of the genetic predictors across generations. These results will enable scientists to explore the underlying basis for resistance to M. bovis infection, which could lead to designing better control strategies.


Understanding resistance and differential vaccine responses to Eimeria in the chicken - novel biomarkers and genetic control - £713,383

Professors Pete Kaiser and Stephen Bishop from The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh working with Dr Damer Blake and Professor Fiona Tomley from Royal Veterinary College. 

In chickens the disease coccidiosis, caused by the parasite Eimeria, is controlled primarily through the use of drugs called coccidiostats. Vaccines exist, but are currently not a cheap or practical solution to replace these drugs.

Resistance to Eimeria infection is known in inbred lines of chickens, but previous attempts to map the genetic basis of this have been largely unsuccessful. Researchers plan to genetically map disease resistance and differential responses to vaccines, using modern techniques. They will analyse the adaptive immune response in populations of chickens, which clears the pathogen causing the infection, and delivers immunological memory against reinfection. By investigating aspects of this response they hope their findings will lead to new tools for defining disease characteristics and features.


About BBSRC:

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (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 £467M (2012-2013), 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.

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