Venugopal Nair, head of the avian viral diseases programme at The Pirbright Institute, has been awarded an OBE by the Queen in this year’s New Year Honours.
Prof Nair’s research is focused mainly on unravelling the molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis, the process by which cancer cells are formed, and has made major contributions to the understanding of how avian oncogenic viruses induce tumours.
He has published more than 120 scientific publications and several book chapters in this area and his contributions to avian disease research were also recognised through the Tom Newman Award by the British Poultry Council in 2002, and admittance to the World Veterinary Poultry Association (WVPA) Hall of Honour in 2013.
Prof Nair moved to the UK in 1989 after studying veterinary science and virology in his home country of India. His scientific research career began at the Institute of Virology in Oxford where he worked as a post-doctoral research fellow. During his six-year tenure at Oxford, he investigated the molecular biology of flaviviruses important to human and veterinary medicine, including tick-borne encephalitis and louping ill viruses.
In 1994 he took a position at Pirbright and worked within Jim Payne’s group at Compton in Berkshire on avian oncogenic viruses. Following Dr Payne’s retirement, he became head of the avian oncogenic virus group, carrying out extensive studies on Marek’s disease and avian leukosis virus.
He became head of the avian viral diseases programme at Pirbright in 2010 and now oversees the Institute’s programme of research on avian virology and immunology.
A former editor of Avian Pathology, Prof Nair is also an associate editor of Diseases of Poultry (13th edn). He is the designated expert of the Office International des Epizooties Reference Centre on Marek’s disease and holds visiting professorships at Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool, and is also investigator at the Jenner Institute, Oxford.