The financial awards were given by the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC) to provide new solutions to tackle diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), and emerging poultry viruses.
The first of the two projects is entitled ‘The Molecular Biology of FMDV Replication: Towards New Methods of FMDV Control’ and was awarded £5.6m to help transform the way the disease will be controlled in the future.
Academics at the Pirbright Institute and those from the Universities of St Andrews, Leeds, Edinburgh and Dundee, will be working on the study, which will lead investigations into how the FMDV grows in cells and interacts with cells.
Lead researcher Professor Martin Ryan of the University of St Andrews, said: “One approach will be to alter the virus to make new strains that can infect animals without causing disease. These weakened viruses can prompt an immune response from the infected animal, giving it protection from subsequent infection.”
Professor Terry Jackson, from The Pirbright Institute, said: “One of humanity’s biggest challenges in coming years will be to meet a growing demand for food. Animal diseases have a major impact on the productivity of the livestock industry and safeguarding animal welfare will be a major component of maximising food production.”
Research into tackling poultry viruses through the development of rapid responses to emerging viruses was given more than £6.2m in funding.
It is hoped the financial boost will also help researchers establish the “next generation” of poultry virologists to work in a scientific area where the UK has traditionally been strong.
Working on the poultry virus research programme, entitled ‘Developing Rapid Responses to Emerging Virus Infections of Poultry’, is Dr Michael Skinner of the Imperial College London. Research will also involve collaboration with several other biology intellects.
Researchers on the programme hope to enable the recognition of emerging viruses before widespread infections occur, prepare for the possibility of new subtypes of avian influenza, and help the process of developing better vaccines for poultry and humans.
Skinner said: “One area of the research will help us to identify infections early. We are looking for distinct signatures that appear upon infection of cells in the lab. We can use these signatures to create means of detecting new viruses, especially in elite breeder flocks, where the UK and Europe has an important global commercial presence”.