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Transcript of Director's statement to media

5 August 2007

The Pirbright site houses two laboratories. The first laboratory, which you seem familiar with, is the Institute for Animal Health - a government sponsored research laboratory housing for DEFRA the Reference Laboratories for Foot and Mouth Disease, and the second laboratory is the Laboratory of Merial, a world leading manufacturer of commercial animal vaccines, including foot and mouth disease.

As we reported yesterday, scientists at IAH Pirbright Laboratory have worked round the clock since Friday to confirm the suspect cases. We at the Institute for Animal Health have identified the type and strain of virus responsible as very close to 01/BFS 67. I would like to thank my colleagues here at the Institute for their professionalism and speed.

As we know this strain was isolated originally in 1967. Since 1967 this strain has become a reference strain for regular, small scale, use in FMD laboratories around the world including the Institute. At Merial it is one of the strains grown on a commercial, large scale, for use as a vaccine.  Reports suggest that the company has produced this strain recently.

The Institute for Animal Health operates under strict biosecurity procedures licensed by Defra. In addition to our general checks on biosecurity - operation of equipment, procedures and physical barriers etc, which have shown no breaches of our procedures, we have been able to check our records specifically for use of this strain. Our results show limited use within the laboratory within the past four weeks.

We are continuing to examine all possible avenues and are conscious that we are under scrutiny, in the same way as the Merial Laboratory.

The Institute for Animal Health welcomes the independent review under Professor Spratt to investigate all aspects of the Pirbright site operations in the two organisations, Institute for Animal Health and Merial, to determine the source of this outbreak. We are continuing to cooperate fully with Defra.

My next major point is that site redevelopment is well in progress at the IAH Pirbright - I know that the age of the buildings has been talked about by some this morning. Since the 2001 outbreak of FMD, and the recommendations of a subsequent report in 2002, the government has agreed to rebuild the Pirbright Laboratories and these are under development at present; as you can perhaps see from your vantage points.

Staff returning to work on Monday will be fully briefed and able to raise any points they wish to ensure everyone on the site is focused on assisting the investigations so that this matter may be resolved as speedily as possible.

Finally, IAH is concerned for all individuals affected by the current FMD outbreak and we endeavour to put all our efforts into minimising the impact on people, their livestock and the country. 

Professor Martin Shirley
Institute for Animal Health



Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299