Impressive returns from government investment in Moredun science

A recently published independent economic impact study(1) has shown that for every £1 of funding Moredun Research Institute received from the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Scientific Research Programme 2005-2010, Moredun’s research generated £5 for the Scottish economy.

The focus of the research programme is to improve the health and welfare of farm livestock through the prevention and control of diseases. The total cost of animal disease to the UK economy is around £1 billion and the outputs from Moredun’s research could reduce this cost by a quarter.

Some of the pathogens researched by Moredun also affect public health and these diseases are thought to cost the UK economy in excess of £556 million a year.

“The funding Moredun receives through the RERAD research programme is crucial to enable our scientists to conduct the fundamental research required to understand how pathogens cause disease and we use these scientific building blocks to generate effective products to control and prevent disease,” said Professor Willie Donachie, Deputy Scientific Director, Moredun.

Moredun’s research philosophy is that disease prevention is better than cure and therefore the main outputs from the research programme have included the development of rapid and accurate diagnostic tests, effective vaccines and disease prevention strategies.

Diagnostic tests are used to verify the health status of an animal and may be applied as a quality assurance standard where animals with certified good health will generally be of higher value. Accurate diagnostics also allow scientists to track sources and spread of infections. Funding from the RERAD Research programme has enabled scientists to develop and apply new techniques in genomics, molecular biology and immunology to generate novel diagnostics. Examples of these include a multiplex PCR test to detect a range of respiratory pathogens and a new sero-diagnostic assay to detect animals infected with C.pseudotuberculosis , causing caseous lymphadenitis

A major output from this programme has also involved development of vaccines to prevent disease. Vaccines offer green solutions to disease control as they provide a sustainable strategy and reduce reliance on pharmacological drugs and pesticides. It is estimated that 337.5 tonnes of antibiotics are used each year to treat farm animals. The use of vaccines has multiple benefits such as improving animal and public health through reducing and preventing infection; decreased reliance on drugs such as antibiotics and anthelmintics, thus increasing productivity and welfare of livestock, reducing waste and harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

To help bridge the gap between conducting the scientific research and developing a usable product, Moredun has worked with a number of commercial partners to help translate science into products. A new Moredun company Inocul8 was set up in 2010 with the specific remit to bring new vaccines to market and is currently focussing on developing vaccines for several diseases including Caseous lymphadenitis (CLA), and the blood sucking worm Haemonchus contortus. The research has also led to a number of highly successful Spin-Out companies such as Biobest, a veterinary diagnostics company and BigDNA a company specialising in vaccine delivery systems that recently won an award for the best new Life Sciences Company in 2010.

The research outputs arising from the RERAD funded programme has also brought additional benefits to a wide range of different groups of people. One of these groups is the scientific community where Moredun scientists were successful in leading a consortium group to secure the largest ever award by the EU in the field of animal health: €9 million to develop vaccines against parasitic worms.

Scotland’s workforce has also benefitted from improved skills and knowledge, thanks to education and training provided by Moredun at all levels, from school children to experienced post-graduate researchers. Through collaborations with the other Research Institutes funded through the RERAD programme Moredun has ensured that the research outputs, knowledge and expertise generated are disseminated as widely as possible to the benefit of the economy and society at large.

Dr Elisabeth A. Innes, Communications Director at Moredun said: “Collaborations are very important in scientific research. Working together with others in different disciplines and introducing different perspectives enhances the benefits science can bring to help us address some of the major challenges we face in dealing with a changing climate, ensuring food and water security, combating infectious disease and conserving biodiversity. Moredun is one of the partners in a new RERAD funded initiative bringing together the collective expertise of the Scottish Research Institutes through the knowledgescotland partnership to help integrate science more effectively into policy development.”

A recent knowledgescotland project involved a collaboration between science and the arts to develop a photographic exhibition entitled ENLIGHTENMENT, inspired by scientific research conducted within the Scottish Research Institutes funded through the RERAD Research programme 2005-2010. The beautiful and imaginative collection of images act as signifiers for the science stories that inspired them and the exhibition has provoked much public interest and acclaim since its launch in March 2010 and is currently touring, with exhibitions
at various locations across Scotland.

Notes to editors

1. Moredun Group Economic Impact Study, BiGGAR Economics, Midlothian. 2010

Published on 27 December 2010 in Food, health and wellbeing