Animal diseases can cause serious social, economic and environmental damage, impact on animal welfare and in some cases directly threaten human health. These diseases ignore borders. Livestock provides one third of human protein intake so working together to develop new control methods for the disease problems that are common to countries around the world is essential to protect food security and the livestock industries. Sixteen organisations from twelve countries have so far committed to jointly invest around EUR 2 billion in the next five years through a new international research consortium on animal health. A launch event took place on 27 January in Brussels.

An exciting initiative to coordinate animal health research globally was launched in Brussels in January with talks from Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Monique Eloit, Director General, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This new initiative, which builds on the success of the EU-funded STAR-IDAZ Project (Global Strategic Alliances for the Coordination of Research on the Major Infectious Diseases of Animals and Zoonoses), aims to deliver measurable advances in the control of animal diseases through the alignment of both public and privately funded animal health research programmes around the world.

The Consortium includes research funders and programme owners from Europe, Asia, Australasia, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East as well as international organisations and the representation of veterinary pharmaceutical companies. Together, they have committed a total budget in the region of EUR 2 billion to invest over a five year period to 2021. Sixteen organisations from twelve countries have signed so far and the consortium is likely to enlarge in the coming weeks and months. These partners have agreed to coordinate their research programmes to address agreed research needs, share results and together deliver new and improved animal health strategies for at least 30 priority diseases, infections or issues, including candidate vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and other animal health products, procedures and/or key scientific information and tools to support risk analysis and disease control.

To achieve these goals Working Groups consisting of researchers will be established for each of the priority topics. Guided by a Scientific Committee, these groups will perform research gap analyses. The Scientific Committee, consisting of independent experts, will present the gap analyses to the IRC partners and advise them on how their programmes might be aligned. A Scientific Secretariat will be established to provide the Working Groups with literature reviews and support them in their gap analyses, support the Scientific Committee and Executive Committee logistically and facilitate information exchange within and between all three levels.

IRC Partners to date include Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and United States as well as Zoetis and Observers in the European Manufacturers of Veterinary Diagnostics (EMVD) and HealthforAnimals.

The priority topics identified for initial collaboration include:

•              Immunology/vaccinology (tools and technologies)

•              Diagnostics (tools and technologies)

•              Innovative anti-infective approaches, including alternatives to anti-microbial agents

•              Influenza

•              Bovine Tuberculosis

•              Foot and Mouth Disease

•              Brucellosis

•              African Swine Fever

•              Emerging issues

•              Vector-borne diseases

•              Coronaviruses

•              One Health (including food-borne pathogens and AMR)

•              Mastitis

•              Animal genetics/genomics for animal health

•              Foresight

•              Epidemiology

•              Helminths

•              Rabies

•              Respiratory Diseases of Pigs

View the IRC governance documents  here  and for further information contact the STAR-IDAZ Project Manager, Luke Dalton (Luke.Dalton@Defra.gsi.gov.uk).