Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute - securing the future

Date published: 24 November 2016

I am pleased to have recently been appointed as AFBI Chief Executive, following the retirement of Professor Seamus Kennedy earlier this year.

Dr Sinclair Mayne, newly appointed CEO of AFBI

AFBI has faced unprecedented challenges in recent years, as the result of pressures on public finances, with the most recent of these being the loss of over 150 experienced staff, and the consequent re-organisation of the majority of our work areas.  Despite these major challenges, the Institute has continued to deliver a very high standard of statutory and diagnostic testing, and research and development.  This is testament to the commitment of our staff to support the wider agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.

Our industry needs world leading science to drive innovation and improve efficiency in order to further enhance Northern Ireland’s reputation for safe, healthy and nutritious food produced from sustainable systems. This is particularly the case in relation to animal health issues.

Protecting Animal Health

Compulsory BVD Scheme
One of the major developments during the year was the start of the compulsory phase of the BVD eradication programme for Northern Ireland.  AFBI’s Veterinary Science Division has supported the scheme from the outset through relevant research, provision of the only local testing laboratory service and through membership of both the BVD Technical Working Group and the Implementation Group.

Antimicrobial Resistance
Food producing animals can act as reservoirs of zoonotic antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria, for example multiresistant strains of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium, the third most reported cause of  human salmonellosis in the EU.  AFBI has an important role in AMR surveillance, including laboratory detection, molecular testing and the contribution of data to a number of important UK and international epidemiological reports on AMR.

Bovine Tuberculosis
AFBI continues to deliver specialist and accredited laboratory confirmation of bovine TB infection, in support of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).  The pathogen molecular type of all confirmed bovine TB cases, provided by AFBI, helps inform outbreak investigations.  AFBI also undertakes an integrated multi-disciplinary research programme for DAERA and other cofunders on priority aspects of bovine TB science.  AFBI research was a crucial component of UK genetics research that culminated in the industry launch of genetic evaluations for bovine TB resistance in dairy bulls earlier this year.

Viral Infections
AFBI has an exemplary track record in producing globally important vaccines to control viral infections in livestock.  Research in this area continues on the development of new diagnostic tests for viral infections, producing novel vaccines for disease control and identifying viruses associated with existing or new disease syndromes.

Veterinary Science Division – New Building Development

Many of the current buildings at the Stoney Road site were constructed in the 1960’s and are no longer fit for purpose.  I am pleased to report that during the year, DAERA approved a business case for the construction of a new building to replace the existing main building, and to provide a new post-mortem suite and incineration facility.  The new build will house scientific laboratories to at least Containment Level 2, with associated administrative functions.

The proposed new facilities will enable Veterinary Science Division to continue to deliver world class science to all of our customers, through our integrated programme of statutory and diagnostic work, in conjunction with research designed to maintain and improve the health and welfare of farm livestock, whilst protecting public health by ensuring the safety of local food production.

Notes to editors: 

AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.

AFBI's Vision is "Scientific excellence in Northern Ireland ... serving the world".

All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office.

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