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New Director for the Institute for Animal Health

1 March 2011

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) have announced the appointment of the new Director for the Institute. Prof John Fazakerley, a leading researcher in virology, will join IAH as its new Director from 1 June 2011 from his current post at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh.

IAH is a world-leading research centre for the study of viral diseases of livestock and zoonotic virus infections. The institute has unique national capabilities and facilities for research and disease surveillance and plays a key role in providing diagnostics and policy advice in the event of UK animal disease outbreaks. As a central hub in a national and international network of veterinary and virology research centres, policymakers and industry, IAH has a crucial role to play both in the UK and globally to support food security by protecting livestock against viral diseases.

Prof Fazakerley will be taking over the leadership of IAH as significant investment by BBSRC begins to bear fruit with new lab facilities coming online and as a new Institute science strategy, focused on virology and associated disciplines, moves forward. The £100M+ redevelopment of the IAH laboratory at Pirbright is due for completion in 2013.

IAH partners from industry, academia and policymaking will be able to meet Prof Fazakerley at an event being hosted by IAH and BBSRC in Westminster on 17 March 2011.

Prof Doug Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "There are some exciting and challenging years ahead for IAH, with the completion of the new world-class facilities at Pirbright and a new science strategy. John Fazakerley brings the skills and vision to lead the Institute through this period and to build on its position as a central hub in UK and global animal health research and surveillance.

"John has a renowned research track record in virology and is an experienced senior manager. His role in laboratory redevelopment programmes, including the new Easter Bush facility near Edinburgh, means he understands what is required to deliver the new Pirbright laboratory and to consolidate IAH science onto a single site. As head of a BBSRC Institute Strategic Programme at The Roslin Institute, John is familiar with the role of the BBSRC family of institutes and the strengths they bring to the UK research base."

Prof Fazakerley is currently Group Leader and Professor of Virology at The Roslin Institute, an Institute of BBSRC within the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He is a recognised world expert on arthropod (mosquito- and tick-borne) virus diseases, immune responses to virus infections and virus pathogenesis.

Prof Fazakerley has played a central role in the development of the new buildings for The Roslin Institute at Easter Bush, near Edinburgh, leading planning for the move of virologists into the facility.

Prof Fazakerley said: "I am delighted to be joining IAH as its new Director. The Institute has a distinguished international reputation for its work on virus infections of animals and it has many world leading researchers. IAH scientists have played a key role in a number of important achievements including the development of new vaccines for economically devastating diseases and the elimination of the cattle plague virus rinderpest. Institute scientists provide important expert advice to policymakers during disease outbreaks. For example, scientists working at IAH predicted the spread of bluetongue to the UK in 2007, which informed a surveillance and vaccination campaign that probably saved the UK economy around £500 million.

"In the foreseeable future, climate and environmental change, human population growth, urbanisation and globalisation threaten the security of UK and global food supplies. Separately and together, these factors are driving the emergence of new virus infections which threaten the productivity of our livestock, including poultry and aquaculture, and may, like influenza virus, spread from animals to cause disease in humans. The extensive BBSRC investment in new buildings and facilities and the staff expertise in virology, associated disciplines and diagnostics place IAH firmly at the forefront of the UK response to these threats."

Prof Joe Brownlie, Chair of the IAH Board of Trustees, said: "With John Fazakerley, the Institute for Animal Health is getting a Director with a fine understanding of animal viruses combined with a track record of working in world leading institutions and new laboratory developments. I look forward to working with him in the coming months and years as IAH, BBSRC and the Trustees deliver a world-class Institute for our scientists and the country."

Prof Fazakerley completed his first degree in animal and plant physiology at Durham University before studying for a PhD in arbovirus encephalitis at St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, University of London. He undertook postdoctoral work on bunyaviruses at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, USA and on arenaviruses and coronaviruses at The Scripps Research Institute, USA before returning to the UK to set up his own research group on virus pathogenesis in the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge. Prof Fazakerley moved to the Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Edinburgh in 1994. He is currently Chair of Virology in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. In addition, when The Roslin Institute joined the University of Edinburgh in 2009, he became a Roslin Institute Group Leader and Head of the Roslin Arbovirus Group. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, has an MBA degree and is an editor of the Journal of General Virology.

Prof Fazakerley succeeds Prof Martin Shirley as Director of IAH. Prof Shirley retired in October 2010. Prof David Paton has been Acting Director in the interim.


Notes to editors

Together with BBSRC, IAH is hosting an event at Church House, Westminster during the afternoon and early evening of 17 March 2011 to outline how it is protecting the UK from livestock disease threats. Prof Fazakerley will be attending the event to meet IAH partners.

The event aims to share knowledge and facilitate partnerships for action across the animal health research and livestock sectors.

The event will be run over two sessions. The first, 1.45pm-5.15pm, will include talks from IAH and other UK research leaders, representatives from the animal health industries and the UK agricultural sector working from research to fight emerging virus threats to UK livestock. There will be opportunities for guests to ask questions and contribute views and comments about the direction of IAH and its role in animal viral disease research.

The second session will be a reception, 6pm-8pm, for senior opinion formers from across the agricultural sector, animal health industry leaders and Parliamentarians are invited to hear about the afternoon discussions and learn more about the central role of IAH in animal viral disease research.

About the Institute for Animal Health

The Institute for Animal Health, an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is a world-leading centre of excellence for research into viruses of farm animals, principally cattle, poultry, sheep, pigs and horses. Our research extends from fundamental to applied research, from genes all the way through to animal populations. It is our belief that better control of viral diseases requires a greater understanding of how each virus causes disease, how the immune systems of the farm animals respond to infection, and how the viruses spread, including those distributed by insects and other arthropods. In this way we contribute to the development of smarter, more effective vaccines; develop more discriminatory, user-friendly diagnostics; provide diagnostic services; and give expert knowledge to guide policy makers and farmers.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.