Public Release: 

Project to develop new poultry vaccines awarded £5.7 million

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Cheap and effective vaccines for poultry that will reduce infections in humans and minimise antibiotics in the food chain will be developed by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as part of a £5.7 million grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The award is one of three grants funded through BBSRC's Strategic Longer and Larger grants (sLoLas) scheme, which gives world-leading research teams five years of funding and resources to address major challenges.

Poultry are the world's most popular animal-based food and global production has tripled in the past 20 years. The world's chicken flock is now estimated to be around 21 billion, producing 1.1 trillion eggs and 90 million tons of meat every year. A healthily maintained livestock is essential for a country's economic prosperity and for public health.

Infected poultry can pass on diseases to humans, particularly through foodborne infections such as salmonella and campylobacter. Vaccinating poultry is the most effective way of protecting them from disease and preventing food poisoning in humans.

The most successful human vaccines that give long-lasting protective immunity are often glycoconjugates (proteins coupled to sugars). These vaccines are complex and expensive to produce, but School researchers have recently developed new glycoengineering technology that will facilitate the coupling of protein/sugar combinations for a new generation of inexpensive veterinary vaccines.

Project principal investigator Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the School, said: "Developing effective, inexpensive vaccines for livestock has multiple advantages, not just in protecting animals from disease, but also in reducing infections in humans and antibiotics in the food chain that are often used in rearing livestock.

"The BBSRC funded proposal on veterinary vaccines will facilitate glycoengineering technology developed at the School to produce glycoconjugate vaccines that will simultaneously protect poultry against clostridia, salmonella and campylobacter infection and subsequently reduce the incidence of food poisoning in humans. The technology will also be used to develop glycoconjugate vaccines for cattle, sheep and goats, to protect against clostridia and coxiella infection"

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "From better vaccines for livestock to growing higher-yield crops, Government is investing in these long-term projects to help the UK's world-leading scientists find innovative and sustainable solutions that will boost food production across the country."

The funded projects were chosen by BBSRC based on their scientific excellence; because they required long timescales, extensive resources; and because they involve internationally leading research teams.

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "The BBSRC sLoLa scheme gives extra time and resources to world-leading UK scientists so they can address major scientific challenges.

"The funded studies include work to breed new varieties of wheat, allow plants to fix their own nitrogen and to create safe and cheap vaccines for poultry.

"As well helping the UK and the world to meet these challenges and offer economic and social benefit, the projects will develop the world-leading research capacity of the UK."

The other grants are awarded to a project led by Imperial College London to develop plants that can make their own fertiliser, and a University of Bristol project to create new ways to breed elite lines of wheat.

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About the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with 3,900 students and more than 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, and among the world's leading schools in public and global health. Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice. http://www.lshtm.ac.uk

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