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£7m multilateral programme to tackle swine and poultry disease

Copyright: Sarah H on Flickr by CC 2.0

An ongoing outbreak of swine fever in China – home to more than half the world’s hogs – has led to a cull of more than 24,000 pigs. Pork is the principal source of dietary protein in China, the Korean peninsula and in many regions of Southeast Asia, and this highly contagious disease, capable of killing any pig it infects, is a significant threat to livelihoods across the region. Asia also accounts for more than one-third of the world’s chicken meat production so diseases of livestock; such as foot and mouth, avian influenza and campylobacter result in huge economic losses.

As the cull continues and efforts to contain the infection are launched in Korea and Hong Kong, researchers from the UK, China, the Philippines and Thailand are convening in Beijing’s Fragrant Hills to explore solutions to the rapidly emerging global challenge of swine and poultry disease. The collaboration, part of the Newton Fund, will reduce the economic and human health impact of these diseases, and improve food security.

11 collaborative projects have been funded, involving leading UK bioscience researchers and teams in China, the Philippines and Thailand. Host pathogen interactions, microbiology, epidemiology, and disease management and control, are issues that will be addressed as part of the research.

International collaboration is a key theme in the Government’s Industrial Strategy that aims to ensure the UK continues to be one of the best places in the world for science and innovation. A total of £7 million has been awarded by BBSRC on behalf of UK Research and Innovation to support UK research organisations, a sum matched collectively by the project’s other international partners, which are:

  • National Natural Science Foundation of China
  • The Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Biotechnology Programme, Department of Agriculture
  • The Philippine Bureau of Agricultural Research, Department of Agriculture
  • Thailand National Science and Technology Development Agency

Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: “The threat to global food security, particularly in Asia, posed by swine and poultry disease has never been more acute. The launch of these joint projects, which coincides with an alarming outbreak of swine fever in China, demonstrates British leadership in partnership with China, the Philippines and Thailand, in addressing an urgent regional challenge and developing robust, multilateral science partnerships in emerging markets where demand for affordable pig and poultry meat is seeing record increases. Multilateral initiatives like this one, which source expertise from the regions on the frontline of the fight against animal disease, are crucial in helping develop a safe, healthy and sustainable global food system.”


Notes to editors:

Project Investigator/ Supervisor Institution Amount
Understanding antigenic diversity, zoonotic potential and immunological prevention of avian influenza viruses affecting poultry; UK-China. Professor Munir Iqbal The Pirbright Institute £497,995
Low-cost Portable Molecular Diagnostic Platform for Rapid Detection of Poultry Infectious Pathogens (LMDP); UK-Philippines Professor Wamadeva Balachandran Brunel University London £614,582
Broadly protective vaccines for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and swine influenza virus infections; UK-Thailand Dr Elma Tchilian The Pirbright Institute £499,985
China/UK/Thailand Program on Poultry Biosafety for Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter (CUT-SEC); UK-China-Thailand Professor Timothy Walsh Cardiff University £1,527,899
Development of live attenuated vaccine candidates for Newcastle Disease Virus; UK-Thailandt Professor Steven Goodbourn St George's University of London £390,078
The development of a phage food additive with the aim to control Salmonella in swine and poultry; UK-Thailand Professor Martha Clokie University of Leicester £527,607
UK-China partnership on Global Food Security: Combating avian tumour diseases for sustainable poultry production; UK-China Dr Yongxiu Yao The Pirbright Institute £382,637
Using genomics to trace Salmonella transmission and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the poultry and swine food chains in the Philippines; UK-Philippines Professor Taane Clark London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine £444,708
Discovery and characterization of swine host factors required to support swine influenza virus replication; UK-China Professor Wendy Barclay Imperial College London £407,011
Rapid diagnostics and control strategies for enteric bacterial pathogens in backyard and commercial poultry production in Thailand and the Philippines; UK-Thailand-Philippines Professor Paul Wigley University of Liverpool £733, 412
A strategic approach to identifying and combating porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus outbreaks and other porcine viral diseases; UK-Philippines Dr Christine Tait-Burkardt The University of Edinburgh £774,246

For further information on this research programme, please visit the Newton Fund UK-China-Philippines-Thailand Swine and Poultry Research Initiative call for research proposals funding page.

For further information on this research programme, please visit the Newton Fund UK-China-Philippines-Thailand Swine and Poultry Research Initiative call for research proposals funding page.

Information on Partner country funders can be found at:

About UKRI China

UK Research and Innovation China is one of four international offices providing in-country representation for UK Research and Innovation, the UK's principal public body funding research and development. UKRI has an annual budget of more than £6bn, which will increase as the UK raises national R&D spending to 2.4 percent of GDP by 2027.

UK Research and Innovation China plays a key role in securing longstanding partnerships with China to support a Global Britain. Since 2007, our office has facilitated joint research and development programmes with China representing 257 individual grants with a total combined investment value of over £275m involving more than 200 partner institutions and businesses.

About the Newton Fund

  • The UK Research and Innovation China builds research and innovation partnerships with 18 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries.
  • The Newton Fund is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through 15 UK delivery partners, which include the research councils, the UK academies, the British Council, Innovate UK and the Met Office.
  • Follow via Twitter: @NewtonFund


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

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 £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. 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.

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