A U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Strategic Longer and Larger (sLoLa) grant, worth GBP5.7 (US$8.38) million, will be used to design and improve vaccines for poultry. The grant was awarded to professor Mark Stevens and collaborators at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Exeter, the John Innes Centre and the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory. It is one of three recently funded grants through BBSRC's sLoLa scheme, which gives world-leading research teams five years of funding and resources to address major challenges.

Chicken is the UK’s most consumed meat and the world's most popular animal-based food. The sales of chicken meat and eggs are worth over GBP7.2 (US$11.32) billion per year in the UK alone, and demand is increasing rapidly due to population growth. However, poultry has key reservoirs of foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. The productivity and welfare of poultry products are constrained by endemic diseases caused by E. coli and Clostridia. This project aims to develop and refine vaccines to protect flocks against theseinfection.

The most successful human vaccines that give long-lasting protective immunity are often glycoconjugates (proteins coupled to sugars), but these vaccines are complex and expensive to produce. This award will enable researchers to develop glycoengineering technology to produce a new generation of inexpensive veterinary vaccines.

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The principal investigator of the project Brendan Wren, professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Developing effective, inexpensive vaccines for livestock has multiple advantages, not just in protecting animals from disease, but also in reducing infections in humans and antibiotics in the food chain that are often used in rearing livestock. “

Stevens, director of research at The Roslin Institute, said: “We are delighted to partner with BBSRC and leading laboratories to tackle important poultry and foodborne diseases. Taken together with BBSRC strategic investment in the National Avian Research Facility here at The Roslin Institute the project will greatly help us to address the global challenge of improving food supply and safety.”