I had occasion recently to look at a summary of all the efforts that BBSRC is participating in or leading in veterinary vaccinology. This was a report which had been prepared by Sadhana Sharma in our Science Group. I was really impressed by the breadth and depth of BBSRC’s activities in this area, both nationally and internationally.
Internationally BBSRC has led on establishing the STAR IDAZ veterinary vaccinology network, as well as carrying out a global survey to map current activities. This survey received over 100 responses from 19 countries. The report can be found at www.star-idaz.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Vet-Vaccinology-Report-July-2014.pdf (PDF).
The report identified some common areas and gaps which would benefit from a more co-ordinated global research approach. BBSRC is now working with the community and other stakeholders to establish a global research alliance and network to address these research gaps. It is likely that vaccinology in general will be incorporated into the One Health agenda that is part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 (IMI2) and BBSRC is exploring how it can be involved in this activity. I represented BBSRC at a workshop that brought together IMI2, industry and IFAH. There the concept of One Health was used as a framework to identify areas where joining forces between human and animal health would bring considerable benefits in terms of new interventions for humans and animals. BBSRC is exploring the area of vaccine research with funders in the USA and India as a potential area for collaborative research.
Nationally we are also doing a lot.
In June, BBSRC launched its five year veterinary vaccinology strategy (PDF) with a vision that “world-leading BBSRC-supported bioscience research will transform the development and translation of next generation veterinary vaccines to improve animal health and welfare, reduce the impact of zoonoses on public health and strengthen the UK as a centre of excellence for veterinary vaccine research and development.”.
This vision is also supported by a UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network which was established last year and is led by Dr Bryan Charleston. We are working with other Research Councils and Innovate UK to enable the development new tools and technologies in this area. Of course development of vaccines and a better understanding of the host-pathogen interactions is part of the Animal and Plant Health strategy that BBSRC has worked with Defra and the Government Office for Science to develop.
A One Health agenda has also led to the creation of a UK Vaccine Network, announced by the Prime Minister in June this year and jointly led by the Department of Health, DFID, MRC and BBSRC. This group has held its first meeting and identified areas for future focus.
Therefore it was especially pleasing to note that vaccination is a key area of focus in the Wellcome Trust’s new strategy that was published last week. Drug resistant infections are also another priority area along with infections and immunobiology more generally – other areas firmly in BBSRC’s remit.
I have also been working with the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens and colleagues at the Wellcome Trust to see if it is worthwhile revisiting the question of why so few vets pursue research careers. To that end we asked if the Academy of Medical Sciences would host a dinner to bring together a range of stakeholders – which they did last week. The dinner was very ably hosted by the President of the Academy, Sir John Took and there was a lively discussion between representatives of the profession, the vet schools, government agencies, industry and funders. It was clear there was an appetite to look at this again and that there was a collective responsibility for action. I certainly took away some interesting ideas and the Academy will be putting a note of the meeting on its website in the near future.
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