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Easter Bush Research Consortium to Tackle Key Animal Health Concerns 07/04/08

More than 600 scientists are joining forces to create a consortium streamlining research on animal diseases and its implications for human health.

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The Easter Bush Research Consortium (EBRC) involves researchers from The Roslin Institute, its new host the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, SAC (Scottish Agricultural College) and the Moredun Research Institute.

A two-day conference starting today (MON) at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre will herald the EBRC’s launch. Delegates will address issues ranging from the spread of diseases, such as scrapie and malaria, to meeting the increasing demand for livestock due to a growing global population while minimising the environmental impact this may have.

Professor David Hume, Director of The Roslin Institute, which recently joined with the University of Edinburgh, said: “The Easter Bush Research Consortium will create one of the largest concentrations of experts in animal life sciences in the world. It will bring together a wide-range of expertise from different disciplines, with a view to fostering new ideas and streamlining research.”

Research within the EBRC will include effective disease controls and treatments, food safety, animal welfare and sustainable management of farm animals as well as focus on animal and human health. This includes identifying new and emerging diseases that can pass from livestock and wild animals to humans and understanding the ways in which these diseases work.

Ian Pearson, Minister for Science and Innovation, said: “The UK is already rightly seen as a location of choice for world class research in the global market. The EBRC will offer us an additional competitive edge.

“The advantage of having such expertise and hi-tech facilities in the same location is obvious. This will help the EBRC tackle major diseases like BSE and scrapie as well as pressing future challenges such as feeding a growing population.”

A major research focus of the EBRC will be on the role that genes play in animal health. This includes both the influence they have on disease as well as the importance of genes in ensuring optimum livestock production, amid forecasts that the global demand for livestock products is expected to double within the next 50 years as a result of a growing and increasing affluent population.

In addition to genetic selection, research from the EBRC will have implications for disease diagnosis and surveillance, vaccination, animal nutrition and husbandry.

Maggie Gill, the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor for Rural Affairs and the Environment, said: “The quality of Scottish science is held in the highest regard around the world. Our strengths in agricultural and biological research are vital in developing effective disease controls and treatments, with important implications for both animal and human health.

“It is great to see Scottish scientists working together through this consortium to play a leading role in understanding the ways in which these diseases work. This is an important step forward for animal health and welfare research.”

Following the completion of a £58 million building for The Roslin Institute in 2010, £37 million of which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the EBRC will be based around the University’s Easter Bush campus and the Pentlands Science Park with the benefits of its scientists being able to pool resources.

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