Members of the public have been given a tour of The Pirbright Institute’s new high-containment facility, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) National Virology Centre.

To mark 100 years of excellence in the control of livestock diseases, more than 250 people were welcomed into the Plowright Building for the centenary open day to tour the state-of-the-art high biocontainment laboratory complex before scientists move in later this year.

The institute carries out research on viral diseases of livestock that include foot-and-mouth disease, bluetongue, rinderpest, Schmallenberg virus, Marek’s disease, African swine fever, African horse sickness, peste des petits ruminants and avian influenza.

The new facility will enable scientists at the institute to continue to deliver high impact, innovative scientific research that enhances the UK’s capability to contain, control and eradicate these economically and medically important diseases.

The new laboratory facility, which began construction in 2010, is currently undergoing extensive testing before the institute applies for a licence to operate from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Institute director John Fazakerley said: “This gives us a narrow window of opportunity in which we have been able to invite members of the public into the laboratories of our unique facility.

“Once science activity has started, access will be largely limited to the 150 or so scientists and engineers who will be working in the building.”

Financed by the Government through the BBSRC, construction was completed on time and on budget
earlier in 2014, which coincided with the institute’s centenary on the Pirbright campus.

Prof Fazakerley added: “This year marks the beginning of a new era of research, disease surveillance and diagnosis in Pirbright, on behalf of farmers in the UK and globally.”

Construction of another medium level containment laboratory complex on the Pirbright campus has also begun. This will accommodate the institute’s scientists who study diseases of poultry, and who are currently located at the institute’s campus in Compton, Berkshire.

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