Pirbright’s Centenary Conference Highlights: Advances in the Research of Virus Diseases of Livestock

UK - The Pirbright Institute hosted its Centenary Conference at The University of Surrey on 11 and 12 September, 2014 to mark its 100th anniversary of the prevention and control of livestock infectious diseases and discuss current research into virus diseases of livestock and viruses that spread from animals to humans.
calendar icon 19 September 2014
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The event showcased the importance, challenges and progress in the control of livestock diseases and zoonoses and gave delegates the opportunity to interact and debate recent advances in the control, epidemiology, virology, immunology and vaccinology of viral diseases of livestock, including poultry, and viral zoonoses. Delegates were also provided with a unique opportunity to tour the Institute’s new state-of the-art high biocontainment laboratory facility, the BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building.

Welcoming the delegates to the conference, Professor John Fazakerley, Director of The Pirbright Institute, said: “The Pirbright Institute has been prominently involved in research to prevent and control infectious diseases of livestock since 1914 when the first cattle testing station was established to combat tuberculosis.

"There have been many achievements along the decades and, a hundred years on, the Institute is a world-leading centre of excellence for surveillance and research to prevent and control virus diseases of livestock and viruses that spread from animals to people.”

“This Centenary Conference marks an important milestone in the Institute’s history and provides an opportunity for scientists, veterinarians and policy makers to discuss recent advances in viral disease research.”

Leading scientists from around the world presented a comprehensive programme which included basic and applied research within the context of four main themes:

  • Control, Vaccines and Immunology
  • Pathogenesis
  • Surveillance and Discovery
  • One Health

Professor Adrian Hill from the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, a close partner of The Pirbright Institute, spoke about the emergency vaccine being developed by his team to combat the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Professor Nigel Gibbens, provided an overview of infectious disease threats to UK livestock. Professor Ab Osterhaus from the Ersasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam highlighted the threat continually posed to livestock and human health by existing and new strains of influenza virus and Dr Keith Sumption from the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) outlined the current global distribution of foot-and-mouth disease and the problems associated with controlling this economically important infection.

Scientists from The Pirbright Institute also presented at the conference, including the Head of the World Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Dr Don King, who emphasised the Institute’s vital work in the prevention and control a number of important diseases of livestock, poultry and humans, including foot-and-mouth disease, bluetongue, human and bovine respiratory disease, chikungunya, avian leukosis and Marek’s disease.

Other talks from senior scientists from around the world reviewed aspects of genetic modification, virus structure, how cells, tissues and animals respond to viruses, vaccine development, diagnostic development, epidemiology of specific viral diseases and virus evolution.

The two day programme also provided delegates with an opportunity to tour the first of the Institute’s brand new state-of-the-art biocontainment facilities, The BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building.

The Institute is currently in the middle of a major redevelopment programme funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and The Plowright Building provides the UK with a national capability to support research and surveillance of high consequence viral diseases.

Professor Fazakerley closed the event by thanking the conference sponsors, the speakers and the audience for supporting the conference and helping to celebrate the Institute’s centenary.

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