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BBSRC Awards $6.4M to Livestock Disease Resistance Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council said today that it has awarded £4 million ($6.4 million) in new funding to support projects that will use genomics methods to better understand resistance to pests in livestock animals.

The funding will also go toward developing new ways to combat livestock diseases.

Funded under BBSRC's Animal Health Research Club, these awards are the first round in a five-year partnership that involves the Scottish Government and a consortium of industry partners from the dairy, livestock, and aquaculture sectors. Through this round and a second one, which will open in mid-October, the ARC plans to award a total of £9.5 million.

Investigators at the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh received £540,000 from BBSRC, as well as £240,000 from Genus and £63,000 from Recombinetics, to try to genetically engineer pigs that would be resistant to the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus by manipulating the CD163 gene. The virus causes the most costly disease to the European pig industry, and costs the US industry around $600 million annually.

Researchers at the Pirbright Institute and the University of Glasgow received a £343,000 grant, as well as £100,000 of in-kind funding from the animal health firm Zoetis. They plan to use DNA sequencing to study molecular changes that occur in infectious bronchitis virus, which causes outbreaks in chickens. Vaccines, consisting of live forms of the virus, exit, but they may revert to a pathogenic form. "[T]he exact processes that drive changes in the virus during vaccine production are poorly understood," BBSRC said, and "[u]nderstanding these basic processes is essential to the development of future vaccines and to reduce the threat of reversion."

A team involving partners at Pirbright and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute will use an award of £619,000 to analyze genetic material in chickens with the aim of identifying proteins that give them protection against bird flu infection.

Researchers at Roslin, the University of Edinburgh, and Scotland's Rural College won a £830,000 award to use genome sequencing to identify genomic predictors of bovine tuberculosis infections, which could be used to breed cattle with bTB resistance.

Other investigators at Roslin and the University of Edinburgh, along with partners from the Royal Veterinary College, received a £713,000 grant to genetically map disease resistance and responses to vaccines for coccidiosis, a poultry disease.

University of Warwick and University of Nottingham researchers won a £505,000 grant to identify all the bacteria present in milk samples from 200 cows with the aim of finding out if there are bacteria colonies in the udders of cows that prevent the disease mastitis in calves.

A team at the University of Glasgow received a £449,000 award to use statistical models to find out more about how genetic diversity in the major histocompatibility complex may be involved in resistance to roundworm infection in sheep.