New facility to boost research into animal health

Claudia Paulussen - Fotolia
A world-leading research facility that will provide unprecedented insights into livestock and human health has opened.

The University of Edinburgh’s Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility (LARIF) was officially opened by Professor John Loughhead CB OBE, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The LARIF will enhance both food security and the health and welfare of farmed animals through research aimed at producing livestock that are genetically more resistant to disease and by the development of improved vaccines.

Research will additionally safeguard human health by helping to tackle food-borne infections and developing strategies against antimicrobial resistance.

Development of this purpose-built facility is supported by a £25 million investment from the University of Edinburgh and CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock), which includes £10.6 million of funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s Innovation Agency.

The LARIF houses an unparalleled combination of imaging, surgical, gene-editing and infection containment facilities, offering exceptional specialist capability for in-depth studies into the health and wellbeing of all major farmed livestock.

Also housed at the LARIF is the Wellcome Trust-funded Critical Care Laboratory for Large Animals, which supports the study of large animal biology with all the resources of a human hospital. Highly skilled vets, who are European and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons-recognised specialists in veterinary anaesthesia, provide round-the-clock care for animals involved in studies.

Advanced medical imaging equipment on site, including CT, MRI, fluoroscopy and ultrasound, enables detailed understanding of anatomy and body composition in livestock, as well as monitoring progression of disease processes in different organs, and their response to treatment.

Studies at the LARIF will also investigate human conditions. Large animal species are valuable biomedical models for studying human diseases and developing new medical technologies. Treatments developed in this way are more likely to be successful.

This new facility is based at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies’ Easter Bush Campus, alongside the prestigious Roslin Institute and wider CIEL-partnered livestock investments.

Collectively, the Campus represents the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe.

Professor David John Argyle, Head of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, said: “The LARIF is a unique and world-leading facility that significantly enhances our ability to study human and animal health.

“Taking this multidisciplinary approach is a key focus for the University and can lead to significant advances in medicine, veterinary medicine and agricultural science.”

Professor John Loughhead, CB OBE, Chief Scientific Adviser to BEIS, said: “Agricultural technologies are a sometimes unrecognised but important component in supporting the agriculture industry to cut its emissions and develop sustainable farming practices - helping to meet the Government’s ambitions to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“The LARIF illustrates the positive effects of successful collaboration between academia, industry and the Government in spreading knowledge and expertise while developing the technologies of the future.”

Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair, Innovate UK said: “Innovate UK has a strong track record of supporting the UK’s agriculture sector.

“The four Agri-Tech Centres that we have funded across the UK are crucial to our mission to boost this vital sector of our economy.

“The world-leading LARIF facility which we are inaugurating today will help the UK remain at the cutting edge of innovation in agriculture.”

Lyndsay Chapman, CEO of CIEL, said “Our partnership in the LARIF brings a new dimension of expertise to CIEL’s extensive network of livestock research capability. It’s an exciting opportunity for industry to capitalise on the extraordinary work undertaken by the University of Edinburgh to deliver on the ‘One Health’ agenda.”

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