Major poultry health research unit opened

A multi-million-pound centre to study issues surrounding poultry health and welfare has opened at the University of Edinburgh this week.

The National Avian Research Facility (NARF), which will provide a resource for UK and international researchers looking into chicken health, was opened yesterday by the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts.

The £14m facility is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), the University of Edinburgh, the Roslin Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

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.

Willetts said: “Agricultural science and technology is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets and we cannot allow the UK to be left behind in the global race. In an industry worth £4bn 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 new unit will look at issues facing the poultry sector, such as campylobacter and salmonella. It will also carry out research on the production of genetically modified chickens, which could be used to tackle issues such as the spread of bird flu.

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 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, said: “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 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, said: “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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