News story

Pioneering new facilities to protect the UK from viruses

The new £135 million National Virology Centre will help the UK prevent virus diseases of livestock and ones spread from animals to people.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

photo by: James Brittain, HDR

Opened by Business Secretary Vince Cable and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council the laboratory uses new, world-leading bio-containment technologies developed specifically for The Pirbright Institute to enable scientists to study diseases such as bluetongue, foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza and African swine fever. The new facilities will help to predict and prevent outbreaks and develop vaccines and diagnostics in order to protect the UK from devastating diseases that can affect animals and humans and cost millions to the UK economy.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, said:

Disease spreading from animals to humans isn’t a plot from a Hollywood movie. Its results can have devastating impact on our health and the health of the countryside economy. This new centre will help protect both.

Investment like this is why we are designing a long-term science and innovation strategy, which will help British science to keep breaking barriers.

Professor John Fazakerley, Director, The Pirbright Institute, said:

Our new high-containment facilities have an exceptionally high standard of design and finish and will allow us to retain and recruit the very best expertise and continue to deliver high-impact science.

The impact of the Institute’s science is global, its facilities and expertise provide a national capability and its work makes a strong contribution to health and economic prosperity in the UK and worldwide.

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said:

The BBSRC National Virology Centre will ensure that the UK has the infrastructure to complement The Pirbright Institute’s scientific excellence to better enable the fight against viral diseases that threaten agriculture and animal health, and which could pose a threat to humans. In an era of global trade and climate change the UK cannot rely on its island status to protect us and cutting-edge science and facilities are vital to safeguard against these threats.

  • animal health and welfare research is crucial to our economy and society. BBSRC-funded scientists at Pirbright played a vital role in saving the nation an estimated £480 million and protected 10,000 jobs in the rural economy during the last bluetongue outbreak through their policy advice and forecasting of the disease threat

  • Pirbright research and surveillance was fundamental in the eradication of rinderpest – a disease that devastated European cattle herds in the early modern period and which until recently destroyed livelihoods and caused great animal welfare problems in Africa

  • the institute’s combination of innovative research continues to result in new vaccines and diagnostics in partnership with commercial companies, underpinning vital and valuable livestock industries


The BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested over £484 million in world-class bioscience in 2013 to 2014. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

Published 31 October 2014