A new research club, launched in the UK in mid-June, will help poultry producers and other farmers, breeders and pharmaceutical companies in the fight against animal diseases.

The Animal Health Research Club will invest around GBP9.5 million (US$14.8 million) of public and private money in research projects which aim to improve animal health and welfare through better understanding, management and control of pests and pathogens.

The club is being led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, BBSRC, with additional funding from 12 company members and the Scottish government. 

The partners hope that by drawing on the complementary expertise of academia and industry, the club will spark new ideas for keeping animals healthy and free from disease. “The Animal Health Club is a unique chance to take a broad look at fundamentals of disease," said council director of innovation and skills Dr. Celia Caulcott. "We hope that by encouraging collaborations and helping people to share knowledge across normal sector boundaries we will be able to deliver real impacts that could deliver a big boost to food security.”

As well as funding research, some of the money will be used to train the next generation of animal health researchers and to support the sharing and dissemination of findings and ideas across the species and sector boundaries. 

The company members of the Animal Health Research Club have provided important input to the strategic direction of the club’s research. This ensures that the club is broadly directing its funding to areas where the commercial sector sees scientific bottlenecks and means the funding pot is being used to tackle problems that will have benefits for food producers and wider society.

The projects funded by the club will focus on four key areas:

  • Understanding the fundamental biology of how farmed animals resist pests and diseases to inform breeding strategies and to help develop better vaccines and medicines;
  • Developing new tools for detecting and monitoring diseases to inform breeding strategies;
  • Research to help understand why vaccines vary in their effectiveness from one individual to another; and
  • Determining the relationship between breeding for production traits and resistance to disease.

The company members of the Animal Health Research Club are: Aviagen, the British Pig Executive, Cobb, Dairy Co., English Beef and Lamb Executive Ltd., Genus, Holstein UK, Merial, Moredun Scientific, MSD Animal Health, Pfizer Ltd., and the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation.