The UK’s fight against zoonotic diseases, including bird flu and bovine tuberculosis, received a major boost today (16 February) with the allocation of £200million for a program of investment in state-of-the-art research facilities.

The money will be spent on a state-of-the-art overhaul of the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s (APHA) science laboratories in Weybridge, boosting the UK’s already leading science and veterinary capacity. Weybridge is renowned for its specialist research and laboratory facilities, as well as its animal health science and disease control capabilities, with an emphasis on the control and eradication of high-risk animal diseases. risk.

APHA is responsible for safeguarding animal and plant health. He played a vital role in controlling the devastating outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 and is currently tasked with combating the largest outbreak of avian flu on record. The outbreak of Covid-19, a zoonotic disease, has reiterated the importance of building our resilience to help prevent future pandemics.

New equipment and specialized testing facilities will enable APHA scientists to identify pathogens for existing and emerging threats posed by animal-borne diseases, and maintain our high biosecurity standards against bovine tuberculosis, salmonella and bird flu. Research at Weybridge has paved the way for field trials of a tuberculosis vaccine for cattle which, if successful, will allow farmers to vaccinate their animals against this deadly disease.

APHA is also playing a vital role in the fight against the biggest outbreak of bird flu on record, supporting the rapid response to try to limit its spread and ensuring the poultry industry can continue to function. This investment in facilities will further enable Weybridge scientists to quickly sample, analyze and confirm the presence of avian influenza in a location so that APHA can act quickly to combat the threat.

Alongside these existing threats, the UK needs to be prepared for future risks from animal diseases that could pose a significant risk to UK agriculture and wildlife, including African swine fever. This investment will provide APHA with greater capacity to track diseases of concern around the world and conduct research on an increasing number of high-risk threats in advanced high-containment laboratories.

In addition to protecting animal health and the general public, strong animal health science capacity is essential to protect industries that depend on the export of animals and animal by-products, which were estimated at over 12 billion in 2019. This investment will enhance the UK’s international reputation as a safe agribusiness trading partner.

Defra Biosecurity Minister Lord Benyon said:

The UK is a world leader in science and biosafety. I have seen firsthand the remarkable work done by APHA in responding to the recent outbreak of avian influenza and in paving the way for field trials of a bovine vaccine against bovine tuberculosis.

This investment builds on a long-term program to future-proof our animal health capabilities and ensure we are at the forefront of defense against future pandemics.

DEFRA Chief Scientific Adviser Gideon Henderson said:

The Animal and Plant Health Agency provides high quality scientific expertise and capacity for the essential work of protecting UK animals, plants and people from health risks. The importance of APHA’s work to society and to the UK economy is demonstrated time and time again; witnessed their work on the current Avian Flu outbreak and the global Covid pandemic – a zoonotic disease.

This substantial investment in APHA’s capacity recognizes the critical role of this government laboratory and will enable its excellent scientists to continue to be at the forefront of research and policy to protect the country, building our resilience. and enhancing our understanding of health risks to and from, Animals and Plants.”

Christine Middlemiss, UK Chief Veterinarian, said:

Rapid and reliable testing and world-class animal disease surveillance are essential to stem the spread of animal diseases and mitigate the risk of pandemics.

This investment allows APHA to continue its vital role in animal health science and help stop the spread of disease.

APHA Chief Executive Ian Hewett said:

As the National Reference Laboratory for 48 animal diseases and the International Reference Laboratory for 23 other diseases, APHA’s Weybridge Science Facility provides international assurance of the UK’s biosecurity capacity to protect animal health and people and to support business relationships.

With this funding, work is already underway to transform the campus, paving the way for a future science center that supports our international reputation as well-prepared animal science and national disease control experts.

The investment confirmed today will also enhance the site’s capacity to allow scientists to manage simultaneous outbreaks and conduct research in parallel. This will help control and eradicate animal and plant diseases and pests while reducing risks from new and emerging threats.

Further information :

  • In March 2020, a previous announcement included £1.2 billion in funding for the Science Capability in Animal Health program at Weybridge as well as £200 million for critical maintenance.
  • The £200m funding announced today is part of the £1.2 investment in the Science Capability in Animal Health program