£7M for new approaches to tackling bovine tuberculosis

BBSRC are making £7M available for UK scientists to combat bovine tuberculosis (bTB), a devastating cattle disease that is one of the biggest challenges facing cattle farming in the UK, with very serious economic consequences.

While incidence of the disease is increasing, and it has spread from isolated pockets in the 1980s to cover large areas of the west and southwest of Britain, the reasons for this spread are still not understood.

BBSRC will support world-class research into the fundamental biology of bTB to address key basic bioscience gaps and will utilise advances in human TB research to provide insights into bTB, and vice versa (known a ‘one-health’ approach).

Up to £5M will be available for scientists to conduct high-quality fundamental research on bTB that focuses on basic underpinning bioscience in three themes; bTB vaccinology, the diversity of bTB strains, and interactions between the bTB pathogen and its hosts.

In addition and as part of the programme, Defra will provide up to £1M of research funding.

BBSRC will also make up to £2M available for scientists to develop non-animal models to accelerate bTB research, thereby reducing reliance on research animals. This part of the project will be collaboration with NC3Rs.

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: “We need to inject more basic bioscience research into the fight against bTB. BBSRC asked the community where the gaps in our knowledge were and it was clear from the responses that it is the fundamental understanding of the disease that needs to be improved. This funding will help explore the mechanisms whereby immunisation with vaccine induces immune protection in cattle, increase our understanding of the diversity of different bTB strains, and examine specific host-pathogen interactions.”

Defra’s Chief Scientific Advisor Ian Boyd said: “Fundamental research on bovine TB is essential in combatting all aspects of the bovine TB episystem. Therefore we are encouraged to see AHVLA, as the UK’s leading bTB research laboratory, spearheading this new initiative with cutting edge academia to develop the next generation of tools to combat Bovine Tuberculosis.”

Dr Vicky Robinson Chief Executive of the NC3Rs said: “We are pleased to be supporting the development of novel models that avoid the use of animals in research into bovine TB. Bovine TB is one of the biggest problems facing the cattle industry today, so the study of infection, virulence and host-pathogen interactions is highly important. This award will make it possible to reduce the reliance on animal models in this priority research area.”

This integrated research programme was announced at a meeting of TB researchers in London today (July 8th) where the joint call with NC3R was launched. Applications for the remainder of the funding will be accepted later in the year.

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