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£7M research awards for control and eradication of bovine TB

Copyright: BBSRC
  • Investment to bridge gaps in our understanding of the basic biology of the disease
  • New non-animal models will help scientists study the disease and test experimental vaccines
  • Programme set to overcome barriers to novel control and eradication strategies

Nine projects totalling more than £7M have been awarded by BBSRC, the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as part of an integrated programme of research on bovine tuberculosis (TB). The programme, comprising two separate calls, aims to promote a step change in bovine TB research leading to the development of novel control and eradication strategies.

The first call, which included £70k support from NC3Rs, provided funding for three projects in 2015 to develop improved in vitro and in silico models to study bovine TB infection and virulence. The second call, which includes £600k support from Defra, sees a further six projects that will focus on bridging gaps in our understanding of bovine TB strain diversity and of the interactions between bovine TB and its hosts, as well as accelerating vaccine research.

Bovine TB is the greatest animal health threat to the UK. Dealing with the disease is costing the taxpayer £100M each year.

The UK Government is pursuing a comprehensive eradication strategy which includes tighter cattle measures, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where the disease is rife.

BBSRC Chief Executive Professor Jackie Hunter said: “The basic bioscience funded through this integrated research programme will play a crucial role in the development of next generation control and eradication strategies for bovine TB. Increasing the protection of herds to this disease is a top priority for UK food security, allowing greater food production from the same amount of land and reducing wastage in the food chain whilst reducing the cost to UK taxpayers.”

Dr Vicky Robinson CBE, Chief Executive of the NC3Rs said: “Research on bovine TB has traditionally been heavily dependent on animal research to study pathogen biology. The use of non-animal approaches such as in vitro and computer models have the potential to transform knowledge of the disease as well as avoiding the use of laboratory animals, making this new collaboration between the BBSRC and the NC3Rs a win/win.”

The projects are:

Projects funded in call one: Replacing animal models of bovine tuberculosis

Principal investigator Organisation Title Value
Professor Helen McShane University of Oxford Developing and validating an in vitro mycobacterial challenge model to facilitate TB vaccine research and minimise in vivo challenge £552,663
Professor Mark Chambers University of Surrey A bovine alveolus model to replace cattle in the study of host-pathogen interactions in bovine tuberculosis £424,819
Professor Graham Stewart University of Surrey DictyMyc: using Dictostelium to study the genetic basis of Mycobacterium bovis intracellular infection £434,851

Projects funded in call two: Eradication of bovine tuberculosis through basic research and discovery

Principal investigator Organisation Title Value
Professor James Wood University of Cambridge Exploring the richness of Mycobacterium bovis strain diversity to decipher the epidemiology of bovine tuberculosis ecology £657,348
Professor Ivan Morrison The Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh NKp46+CD3+ T-cells as a novel target for vaccines against bovine TB £734,989
Dr Apoorva Bhatt University of Birmingham Defining the molecular basis of host-pathogen interaction in bovine TB £584,734
Dr Sharon Kendall Royal Veterinary College Mycobacterial determinants of survival and fitness within the bovine host £1,146,882
Professor Ian Jones University of Reading A reverse vaccinology approach to a bTB vaccine £1,549,335
Professor Elizabeth Wellington The University of Warwick The farm environment: an overlooked source of Mycobacterium bovis? £930, 906


About NC3Rs

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is a leading independent scientific organisation dedicated to replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in research and testing (the 3Rs). It supports the UK science base by driving and funding innovation and technological developments that minimise the need for animals in research and testing, and lead to improvements in welfare where animals continue to be used. It funds research, supports training and development, and stimulates changes in regulations and practice.

Primarily funded by Government, the NC3Rs is also supported by the charitable and private sectors. It works with scientists in universities and industry in the UK and internationally.

Further information can be found at: @nc3rs


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.


UK Research and Innovation Media Office

Tags: animal health animal welfare farming food funding microbes BBSRC press release