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HRH The Princess Royal officially opens the BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre at The Pirbright Institute in Surrey

Copyright: The Pirbright Institute
News from: The Pirbright Institute

HRH The Princess Royal officially opened the BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre: The Jenner Building today (24 March, 2017) – a world leading vaccine development facility, located at The Pirbright Institute in Surrey. 

The BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre accommodates 100 scientists working on cutting-edge research to generate exciting new vaccines for a variety of livestock diseases, including those that can spread to humans. Scientists at the facility mainly focus on poultry diseases such as avian influenza (bird flu) and Marek’s disease, but they also develop vaccines for other animal viruses such as the devastating African horse sickness virus (AHSV).

Copyright: The Pirbright Institute
Dr Simon Carpenter, Head of Entomology at The Pirbright Institute, explains to HRH The Princess Royal how their research helps policy makers and farmers predict and control outbreaks of livestock disease transmitted by insects such as biting midges. Copyright: The Pirbright Institute ©2017

Construction of the BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre cost £24M, which was part of a £350M strategic capital investment from government through The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), as part of its continued commitment to support the UK’s world-leading position in bioscience through development at the Pirbright Campus.

Recent breakthroughs at Pirbright include using new technologies that facilitate the development of a new-generation of genetically modified (GM) vaccines. These are quicker and cheaper to produce and more crucially, are capable of protecting against a variety of diseases – paving the way for universal vaccines against several different strains of virus such as avian influenza.

Pirbright is a world-leader in the development of new vaccines and diagnostics and provides a national surveillance and response capability to the UK for a range of high consequence livestock virus diseases and those that spread from animals to humans. Pirbright is home to the World Reference Laboratory for foot-and-mouth disease and UK/EU reference laboratory for bluetongue disease.

Dr Bryan Charleston, interim director and CEO of The Pirbright Institute, said: “We are very honoured to have HRH The Princess Royal here today to officially open the BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre: The Jenner Building.

“Our innovative new facilities will enable scientists to develop a greater understanding of virus-host interactions and how best to combat diseases using the latest technologies including the genetic modification of vaccines and viruses.

Copyright: The Pirbright Institute
Pirbright scientist Dr Erica Bickerton, demonstrating to HRH The Princess Royal the process of egg candling, which reveals if an egg has been fertilised and able to be used in vaccine research. Copyright: The Pirbright Institute ©2017

“Extensive investment by BBSRC and the government in our infrastructure and the unique expertise of our scientists and staff, well position the Institute to continue to deliver innovative world-leading science that provides economic and health benefits on a global scale”, he said.

Professor Melanie Welham, Chief Executive of BBSRC said: “From developing new tools and uncovering new knowledge through to the development of vaccines, the research at the BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre will help protect livestock from diseases and so support a vibrant UK agriculture and food sector – as well as helping to protect human health”.

Architects NBBJ and the construction company John Sisk & Sons have created an extremely energy-efficient building. The BBSRC National Vaccinology Centre consumes 20% less energy than the buildings it replaces. This was achieved by including features such as automated façade vents for night-time cooling, rainwater harvesting, extensive use of LED lights, and 283 photovoltaic panels on the roof. These measures led to it being rated as excellent by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), the leading sustainability assessment.


Notes to editors

The Jenner Building features shared, open plan laboratories that can each house between 6 to 30 scientists, encouraging interaction and collaboration. Specialised labs include a bio-imaging, cell culture suite and a Home Office incubation laboratory.

Standing at 14.6 metres tall, the building has 3,700 metres of floor space across two floors, which is equivalent to 19 tennis courts.

Landscape designers Robert Myers Associates created the outside environment including a wildflower meadow to the south, part of which was awarded to the Institute for winning the CIRIA biodiversity BIG Challenge Awards. The rest of the wildflower planting was donated by construction company John Sisk & Sons, and is haven for wildlife and insects.

About The Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.

With an annual income of nearly £26.1M from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £5M strategic investment from BBSRC during 2016-2017, the Institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.


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 £473 million in world-class bioscience, people and research infrastructure in 2015-16. 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.

Tags: people skills and training The Pirbright Institute press release