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The mission to eradicate avian diseases

The mission to eradicate avian diseases

Poultry production improves the lives of many by improving nutrition and providing an effective source of income that can lift people, particularly those living in rural communities, out of poverty. However, diseases such as avian flu can be financially devastating for farmers and can spread to humans globally as pandemics through migratory birds.

The mission of the UK-China Centre of Excellence for Research on Avian Diseases (CERAD) is to serve as a research network to tackle avian diseases in the two countries. Set up in 2015, CERAD began to investigate avian tumour diseases and develop innovative vaccines.

Avian leukosis was a major problem crippling many Chinese poultry farms, particularly in the native breeds of chickens. Drawing from previous experience of eradicating avian leukosis from the UK, the CERAD team provided critical assistance to eradication programmes in China so that direct losses from the disease reduced by £35 million.

Joint research also led to the application of innovative gene editing technologies to develop recombinant vaccines that could simultaneously protect against multiple avian diseases, and the team is currently in talks with commercial companies in China to translate this innovation into vaccines.

Collaborative research between UK and Chinese partners have also resulted in exchange visits of young scientists and doctorate students. CERAD also serves as the route and catalyst for further participation of UK scientists in China on different research projects.

"A few years ago, my Langshan chicken farm suffered major losses due to avian leukosis. Using the advanced diagnostic tools and eradication protocols…we managed to reduce the losses significantly."

Poultry farm owner in Shandong, China


Sino-British Centre for Research on avian diseases

Project leads: Professor Venugopal Nair OBE, Pirbright Institute, UK and Dr Zhiqiang Shen, Shandong Binzhou Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine Academy, China

Delivery partners: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation and Shandong Binzhou Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine Academy