Researchers from The Pirbright Institute in the U.K. have been awarded $5.5 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a Livestock Antibody Hub aimed at improving animal and human health globally.
According to the institute, the ambitious program of work will see extensive collaboration among multiple U.K. research organizations in order to utilize research outcomes in livestock disease and immunology to support human health as part of the "One Health" agenda.
Six leading scientists from Pirbright will be involved in the project, including John Hammond, Venugopal Nair, Simon Graham, Elma Tchilian, Munir Iqbal and Erica Bickerton. Their combined expert knowledge will drive the study of cattle, pig and poultry antibody responses at high resolution to expand the understanding of protective immunity in species that can also be used as models for a range of human infectious diseases, the Pirbright announcement said.
The aim is to use Pirbright’s expertise in livestock viral diseases, cutting-edge technology and unique high-containment facilities to bring antibody discovery, manipulation and testing up to the benchmark already seen in the immunological field for rodents and humans.
“New tools have given us the opportunity to utilize these detailed antibody responses to make the next generation of vaccines and therapies,” Hammond said.
This highly collaborative work will address the needs of the livestock research community while bridging the requirements of the vaccine industry, Pirbright added. A number of work programs will focus on studying B cells and antibodies at multiple scales, including gene expression, single cell function and the entire antibody response.
Findings from this research will be used to drive vaccine selection and design and test antibody therapies that "will improve animal health and, ultimately, human health as well as ensuring the security of our food supply," Hammond said.
Pirbright said it will ultimately act as a hub able to provide specific methods as well as access to animal models and the associated expertise to drive antibody research within the One Health agenda.
“This is the single biggest investment in the immunology of livestock in the U.K. from an international funder, and the British Society for Immunology will do all we can to support this collaborative initiative and help maximize its impact for the benefit of human and animal health,” said Dr. Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, which helped with the funding bid.