Well a bit of a shock to the system to be back at work but it certainly beats squelching around in a very wet and muddy garden.

Our beagle had another fit at the weekend which continues to remind me of the importance of the One Health agenda. I was talking at the inaugural meeting of the Veterinary Vaccinology Network in Manchester last week on the subject of open innovation and its potential for veterinary vaccinology. In researching for this talk I came across a number of programmes I hadn’t been previously aware of mostly involving EU funding such MYCOSYNVAC, Feed-a-Gene and PROHEALTH. There were two talks at the event after mine on recent EU Horizon 2020 funded projects – SAPHIR and PARAGONE. SAPHIR aims to develop innovative, safe, affordable and effective vaccine strategies effective against endemic pathogens in pigs, poultry and ruminants. PARAGON aims to develop vaccines against nematode parasites of sheep and cattle plus a single pathogen in poultry.

Of course BBSRC supports open innovation in animal health in a number of ways including joint projects such as STAR-IDAZ as well as EU projects such as Animal Health and Welfare ERA-Net and individually like the veterinary vaccinology research network and the Animal Health Research Club. New treatments for animal disease including the development of new vaccines is an important part of the UK Animal and Plant Health Strategy which has now been published.

The issue of reproducibility in science is still in the news with the announcement that PLOS Biology is taking a proactive approach to encourage reproducibility efforts with a new Meta-Research Section devoted to evidence-based research on research. In terms of the use of animals in research it is refreshing to see that the NC3Rs has developed an online tool called experimental design assistance (EDA – see https://eda.nc3rs.org.uk/).

The EDA has been developed by NC3Rs in collaboration with a group of experts and a company that specialises in intelligent systems. It consists of two parts (i) a website and (ii) technical software. The website includes information on how to devise a hypothesis, how to minimise the risk of bias, how to identify and address sources of variability, and the reasoning behind the choice of statistical methods and analysis. The technical software uses an ontology which allows the proposed experiment to be represented as a diagram with multiple nodes (e.g. variable of interest, outcome measures and so on) and links. Any type of experiment can be represented using different combinations of nodes and links. Each node also contains more information relevant to the design. There are also a series of automatic prompts which are triggered by flaws in the experimental plan or a lack of information, with the prompts providing advice to the researcher. The software also includes tools for randomisation and blinding (for example, generation of a sequence for the allocation of animals which is sent directly to a third party) and for power calculations for determining group sizes. It will be interesting to see if this makes a difference for people and I am sure NC3Rs would be interested to get feedback from users.

Finally a reminder that our Innovator of the Year 2016 competition is closing soon (19 January) so make sure that your applications are in! There are three categories – commercial, social and most promising and entries can come from the full breadth of BBSRC-funded research.

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