LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) announced on June 20 that it received £1.5 million ($1.9 million) to develop new strategies to address future bird flu outbreaks.

The money was allocated from the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Eight UK scientific institutions agreed to focus on researching the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus after the disease became the longest-ever outbreak experienced inside the country.

“This new consortium will allow us to combine our expertise at a national level to increase the speed and quality of our research, ensuring we can develop new strategies to aid our efforts against this insidious disease and hopefully in time reduce the impact on the poultry sector,” said Christine Middlemiss, chief veterinary officer for the UK.

The group is made up of eight of the UK’s scientific organizations, including the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), APHA, The Pirbright Institute, Roslin Institute, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, University of Leeds and University of Nottingham.

The findings for the research plans to be shared with international partners to enhance global risk mitigation and better inform current effort to tackle the disease.

These research areas include the following subjects:

  • Understanding why some strains form larger and longer outbreaks, the difference in transmission and infection in different bird populations
  • The spread of infection over time and across species
  • Resistance in some species
  • Predicting how the virus will evolve and spread in the future and protecting against zoonotic transmission occurring from animals to humans.

“This investment in a new research consortium will bring together the greatest minds from eight world-leading British institutions to address gaps in our understanding of bird flu, helping us to control the spread of the disease, while furthering UK animal health science and ensuring we maintain our world-leading reputation in the field,” said Ian Brown, head of virology and project manager at APHA.