A new Centre of Excellence for Bovine Tuberculosis for Wales will open at Aberystwyth University later this year, bringing together international expertise with the aim of eradicating the cattle disease.
The announcement was made by Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, at Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday 3 October 2018.
Lesley Griffiths said: “Bovine TB is the most pressing animal health challenge for Wales today. It’s had a devastating impact on the national cattle herd and the farming community, while being a significant burden on public finances.
“The Centre of Excellence could be a real ‘game changer’ in the fight against bovine TB and is part of our long-term aim of eradicating the disease for good.”
The new centre represents an investment of £3.6m and will be led by Professor Glyn Hewinson, a world-renowned expert on Bovine Tuberculosis.
Professor Hewinson is currently Lead Scientist for Bovine TB at the Animal and Plant Health Agency and has led research into the disease for more than 20 years.
Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said: “We are delighted to be establishing a Centre of Excellence for Bovine TB in Aberystwyth University with the support of Welsh Government. The economic and emotional cost of bovine TB to rural communities can be devastating and the appointment of Professor Hewinson, with his wealth of experience working in disease control, represents a highly significant investment as we seek new approaches to tackling this long-standing problem.”
The centre is backed by Sêr Cymru II, a programme aimed at growing and developing academic research expertise in Wales. It is funded by Welsh Government, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, participating Welsh Higher Education institutions and the European Regional Development Fund.
Dr Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, added: “Professor Hewinson is a pioneer in the field of research into Bovine TB and will bring with him World-class expertise and leadership. He is held in the highest regard among his peers internationally and his appointment is a real statement of intent in our determination to tackle this disease.”
Speaking about his appointment, Professor Hewinson said: “I am delighted and honoured to be appointed to a Ser Cymru Research Chair at Aberystwyth University, leading a new Centre of Excellence for Bovine TB. The centre will explore fundamental aspects of Bovine TB science, supporting efforts to tackle this devastating disease, in collaboration with both Government and industry organisations.”
Professor Peter Halligan, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, commented: “Attracting new international talent to Wales to increase our already impressive scientific research and development capabilities is essential for Wales’ future economic prosperity and our ability to compete effectively across global marketplaces. I am very pleased to welcome Professor Hewinson, who will be the 12th world class research Chair brought to Wales as part of the Sêr Cymru programme.”
Based within the University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), the new Centre of Excellence will be a hub for national and international research into Bovine TB.
The programme also aims to commercialise the products it develops, collaborating with industry on products such as new diagnostic tests and vaccines.
Bovine TB has a significant financial and social impact on farm businesses and the wider rural community. The cost of fighting the disease is estimated to cost around £26m a year in Wales alone, through the TB control programme and compensation to keepers whose animals are slaughtered.
Photo: The world-renowned expert on Bovine Tuberculosis, Professor Glyn Hewinson, will lead the new centre at Aberystwyth University
Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences
International consortium to develop bovine TB test
The cost of the project is £3.6m and is funded as follows:
Aberystwyth University – £0.6m
Office of Chief Veterinary Officer – £1m
Welsh Government and European Regional Development Fund – £2m
Professor Glyn Hewinson
Professor Hewinson is one of three named OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) experts on bovine tuberculosis and is Chair of the Global Research Alliance for Bovine Tuberculosis (GRAbTB). He is a currently a member of a panel reviewing the 25-year Bovine TB Eradication Strategy for England chaired by Sir Charles Godfray.
Professor Hewinson led the Mycobacterium bovisgenome sequencing project and is currently a member of Public Health England’s Strategic Oversight Group for the implementation of Whole Genome Sequencing of Pathogens into disease control and patient care.
In collaboration with PHE and the Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Medicine, Oxford University, he is leading the veterinary aspects of a ‘One Health’ Approach to combining Whole Genome Sequencing pipelines for Public Health and Veterinary pathogens at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Professor Hewinson is expected to continue to collaborate with APHA, PHE and Oxford University to analyse M. bovisisolates obtained in Wales.
International consortium to develop bovine TB test
Scientists at Aberystwyth University are already involved in developing a new test for bovine tuberculosis as part of an international consortium announced in July 2018.
Led by Professor Luis Muir at IBERS, the consortium is developing a rapid, high-accuracy point of care diagnostic test with an integrated, secure, cloud-based data system for the detection, management and control of bovine tuberculosis.
The other consortium partners are University College Dublin and four UK-based life sciences companies – Dynamic Extractions, Sona nanotech, ProTEM and Bond Digital Health Solutions.
The consortium will work together to develop a new, cost-effective, rapid and accurate point of use test for bovine TB that will allow the monitoring of farm animals, native wildlife populations, farm produce and the environment.
Data gathered from the tests will be integrated into databases, which will lead to more accurate epidemiology monitoring and the development of informed disease strategy.